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Fitting children who are showing signs of deafness with hearing aids or cochlear implants while they are still babies reduces their chances of speech and language problems as they grow up, according to a new study.
Research carried out by scientists at the National Acoustic Laboratories Australian Hearing and the HEARing Cooperative Research Center in Australia found that waiting until children are toddlers to fit them with hearing aids can adversely affect their speech and language development throughout their childhood.
It was found that fitting children with hearing aids or cochlear implants at the age of three months was significantly more effective for language development than when children did not receive these hearing aids until the age of two.
Similar results were also achieved when infants were fitted with an aid at the age of six months.
In total, 350 five-year-olds who had been diagnosed with hearing problems at an early age were compared against 120 children of the same age with normal hearing function for the study.
The greatest benefits to speech and language development were recorded among those who received hearing aids at the earliest ages, particularly for those who had more severe forms of hearing loss, highlighting just how important early intervention can be.
The study authors believe these results are due to children never remembering any difference if they receive hearing aids early on, meaning they grow up, develop and learn to talk with the hearing function provided by their aid or implant.
In an email to Reuters, lead author of the research Teresa Ching explained: "Access to auditory cues in speech and language paves the way for language learning.
"The shorter the period of deprived access to sounds, which would be non-existent in the case with normal hearing, the higher the likelihood for the child with hearing loss to develop language that is on par with his/her normal-hearing peers."
Written by James Puckle
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