Cochlear implantation offers benefits to deaf children with autism spectrum disorder

According to a study by the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, hearing restoration through cochlear implantation in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can help them understand spoken language and improve social interactions. The study reported long-term results for most children with ASA who received a cochlear implant, with a mean follow-up of 10.5 years. The results were published in the journal Otologie & Neurotologie.

Our results complement the growing evidence that cochlear implantation clearly benefits deaf children with autism spectrum disorder. Improved hearing provides access to spoken language that can improve their cognitive and communicative potential and help these children become more concerned with their families. “

Nancy Young, MD, Senior Author, Medical Director of Audiology and Cochlear Implant Programs at Lurie Children’s and Professor of Pediatric ENT at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

The majority (73 percent) of the children in the study used their cochlear implant throughout the day, of which 45 percent developed some understanding of spoken words just by hearing them (no visual cues). 45 percent also used spoken language to some extent as part of their overall communication. 86 percent of parents stated that they had improved social commitment after the implantation. In a survey, one parent reported: “Without his implant he was stuck in his own little world, no sound, no eye contact with others. The implant showed us its personality. “

Recent estimates suggest that one in 88 children in the United States has ASD, a complex developmental disorder characterized by impaired communication and social interaction. 25 to 30 percent of normal hearing children with ASD do not develop a spoken language as a means of communication. Therefore, children with ASD combined with profound hearing loss have two conditions that can limit the development of spoken language. Unsurprisingly, children in this study typically developed understanding and use of spoken language more slowly than implanted children without ASD.

It has been reported that children with ASD have a higher prevalence of sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) than children without ASD. Conversely, it has been reported that children with SNHL have a higher rate of ASD than children with normal hearing. Dr. Young noted that “the link between these two diagnoses in some of these children may be due to congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV), an infection that begins in the developing fetus and is often undetected after birth. It can lead to hearing loss and is associated with it “with an increased incidence of ASA.”

Most of the children in the study were diagnosed with ASA after cochlear implantation. Post-implant diagnosis is likely related to the young age most received their implant and increased difficulty diagnosing ASA when there is significant hearing loss.

“Understanding the range of results in this population is important in advising parents and educators to ensure these children are receiving appropriate support and services,” said Beth Tournis, AuD, audiologist at Lurie Children’s and co-author of the study.


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