Kids with cochlear implants rank quality of life equal to normally hearing peers

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Washington, Feb 1 (ANI): A new American research suggests that children with cochlear implants (CI) have the same quality of life (QOL) as their normally hearing (NH) peers.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device, which restores partial hearing to the deaf. Surgery is performed to implant it in the inner ear and then a device worn outside the ear activates it. The device does not make sound louder or clearer but bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulates the hearing nerve, enabling the deaf or severely hard of hearing individuals to receive sound.

Previous studies have indicated that deaf children feel less socially accepted, experience more difficulty in making friends, and show greater adjustment problems than their hearing peers.

However, the findings of the new research, a cross-sectional study of 88 families with CI children from 16 U.S. states, differ from traditional conclusions.

The study team used a generic QOL questionnaire. The subjects were divided by age of the child when they filled out the questionnaire - an 8-11-year-old group and a 12-16-year-old group.

Both parents and children filled out the QOL questionnaire, with the parents assessing their child. The study group was then compared to a control group of 1,501 NH children in fourth and eighth grades.

Results of the questionnaire showed that overall QOL did not differ between CI and NH groups. However, examination of individual subscales disclosed that 8-11-year-old CI children rate their QOL with family less positively than their NH peers.

Younger CI recipients rated overall QOL more positively than the older 12-16-year-old CI group. But, the authors believe that this could be a reflection of standard adolescent behaviour.

By and large QOL showed a significant inverse association with age at implantation, and a significant positive correlation with duration of CI use in the 12-16-year-old group.

The authors say that even though prior studies have appraised QOL in CI children, this study adds additional perspective to the literature, as it combines assessments by the actual CI recipients and parents, and it maps the results in context with NH children.

The research also demonstrates that parents proved to be reliable reporters for their children in areas where they could observe and participate.

The authors write: "For profoundly deaf children who regularly use a cochlear implant, feelings about life overall are no better or worse than their hearing peers. These findings indicate that cochlear implantation has a positive effect on certain psycho-social domains."

The study has appeared in the February 2010 issue of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. (ANI)

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