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Despite cochlear implants hearing-impaired children face cognitive skill challenges, says study

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Children wearing cochlear implants to help regain hearing ability are likely going to face executive functioning challenges, which are skills ranging from memory to conceptual learning and problem solving.

That's the findings of a new study involving 73 children who received a CI implant before the age of 7 and 78 children not wearing a cochlear implant.

The implants help children with spoken language but the users can still have trouble with writing, reading and other cognitive skills. In fact the study reveals children with CI have two to five times greater risk of an EF deficiency.

The Indiana University research team noted that the earlier the implant is given a child the less risk of cognitive challenges.

The research was published May 22 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery.

"Cochlear implants produce remarkable gains in spoken language and other neurocognitive skills, but there is a certain amount of learning and catch-up that needs to take place with children who have experienced a hearing loss prior to cochlear implantation," said study author William Kronenberger, a professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry, in a university news release.

"So far, most of the interventions to help with this learning have focused on speech and language. Our findings show a need to identify and help some children in certain domains of executive functioning as well," he said.

Study co-author David Pisoni, director of the university's Speech Research Laboratory, said the team now is looking for early signs of risk in children prior to implants.

"It will be beneficial to identify as early as possible which children might be at risk for poor outcomes, and we need to understand the variability in the outcome and what can be done about it," he said in a news release.

"We are now looking for early markers in children who are at risk before they get implants," Pisoni said.

The research report released this week arrives in the month designated Better Hearing and Speech Month. A release on the commemoration recommends anyone experiencing a hearing issue to start with a hearing screening.

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