Predictors of Spoken Language Development Following Pediatric Cochlear Implantation

Tinne Boons*, Jan P. L. Brokx, Ingeborg Dhooge, Johan H. M. Frijns, Louis Peeraer, Anneke Vermeulen, Jan Wouters, Astrid van Wieringen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objectives: Although deaf children with cochlear implants (CIs) are able to develop good language skills, the large variability in outcomes remains a significant concern. The first aim of this study was to evaluate language skills in children with CIs to establish benchmarks. The second aim was to make an estimation of the optimal age at implantation to provide maximal opportunities for the child to achieve good language skills afterward. The third aim was to gain more insight into the causes of variability to set recommendations for optimizing the rehabilitation process of prelingually deaf children with CIs. Design: Receptive and expressive language development of 288 children who received CIs by age five was analyzed in a retrospective multicenter study. Outcome measures were language quotients (LQs) on the Reynell Developmental Language Scales and Schlichting Expressive Language Test at 1, 2, and 3 years after implantation. Independent predictive variables were nine child-related, environmental, and auditory factors. A series of multiple regression analyses determined the amount of variance in expressive and receptive language outcomes attributable to each predictor when controlling for the other variables. Results: Simple linear regressions with age at first fitting and independent samples t tests demonstrated that children implanted before the age of two performed significantly better on all tests than children who were implanted at an older age. The mean LQ was 0.78 with an SD of 0.18. A child with an LQ lower than 0.60 (= 0.78-0.18) within 3 years after implantation was labeled as a weak performer compared with other deaf children implanted before the age of two. Contralateral stimulation with a second CI or a hearing aid and the absence of additional disabilities were related to better language outcomes. The effect of environmental factors, comprising multilingualism, parental involvement, and communication mode increased over time. Three years after implantation, the total multiple regression model accounted for 52% of the variance in receptive language scores and 58% of the variance in expressive language scores. Conclusions: On the basis of language test scores of this large group of children, an LQ of 0.60 or lower was considered a risk criterion for problematic language development compared with other deaf children using CIs. Children attaining LQs below 0.60 should be monitored more closely and perhaps their rehabilitation programs should be reconsidered. Improved language outcomes were related to implantation under the age of two, contralateral stimulation, monolingualism, sufficient involvement of the parents, and oral communication by the parents. The presence of an additional learning disability had a negative influence on language development. Understanding these causes of variation can help clinicians and parents to create the best possible circumstances for children with CIs to acquire language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-639
JournalEar and Hearing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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