National Study finds Providing Well-Fit Hearing Aids in Infancy Helps Many Hard of Hearing Children Develop Optimal Speech and Language Skills
Friday, October 30, 2015
On October 27, 2015, findings from a national study called Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss were published in a special supplement volume of the journal, Ear and Hearing. Results include the discovery that many hard of hearing children who receive optimal, early services are able to “catch up or significantly close the gaps with their hearing peers," according to Bruce Tomblin, Ph.D., an emeritus professor in the University of Iowa's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
“Hearing well is crucial to developing speech and language skills, building social connections and succeeding in life," says Mary Pat Moeller, Ph.D., director of the Center for Childhood Deafness and the language development laboratory at Boys Town National Research Hospital.
Moeller and Tomblin have been co-principal investigators on this longitudinal research collaboration with the University of Iowa, Boys Town National Research Hospital and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 2008.
Other main takeaways from the study include: hearing aid provision in early infancy results in better early language outcomes, but children who were fit later showed the ability to resolve early language delays after hearing aids were used for an extended period; consistent daily hearing aid use provides some protection against language delay and supports auditory development; the richness of parents' or caregiver's talk with the child positively influences children's language abilities.
Moeller says that this study empowers parents, health care providers, and educators with the empirical support to put protections in place that may help children with hearing loss succeed in all facets of their lives.
“Protection arises from properly fit hearing aids that are used consistently and from providing a rich language environment around the child," Moeller says, “as well as making sure the families who need additional support and knowledge receive it."
Researchers at Boys Town National Research Hospital conducted the early research that led to the development of universal newborn hearing screening, which is now a nationally mandated screening for all babies born in the U.S. Universal newborn hearing screening programs have led to identification of hearing loss during infancy, but research on the impact of early intervention on the development of children who are hard of hearing has not been conducted on a large scale.
“The work in the supplement issue was designed to respond to a major gap in research on hard of hearing children. The largest study ever done in the U.S. was in the 1980s and it only had 40 hard of hearing children," said Moeller. “Previous studies did not specifically explore the impact of interventions (like hearing aids) on children's speech and language growth over time."
Over five years, the Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss study collected data from 317 children who are hard of hearing and 117 children with normal hearing, from 17 states. With a few exceptions, children in the study had permanent, bilateral hearing losses, and all but a few children were fitted with hearing aids.
This is the first study of its kind in the United States to identify a large group of young children who are hard of hearing and follow their language development for several years.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health–National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders (NIDCD-DC009560).
To schedule an interview with Mary Pat Moeller, Ph.D., contact:
Marketing and Communication, Boys Town National Research Hospital
531-355-6640 or 531-355-4645
To schedule an interview with Bruce Tomblin, Ph.D., contact:
Lois J. Gray
Office of Strategic Communication, University of Iowa
319-384-0077 or 319-430-3740