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Cochlear Implants a Success for Once-Deaf Kids

Most Once-Deaf Children Still Hear 10-13 Years After Implants

Best Results in Youngest Kids continued...

"I guarantee kids implanted at 6 or 8 or 10 won't do as well as those implanted at 10 months," Madell tells WebMD. "But they still will get outstanding benefit. That is not a reason not to do implants in older kids."

Mattox, too, says that doctors currently get better results than those reported by Haensel's team.

"This report understates, not overstates, the expected results of cochlear implants in children," he says. "In Atlanta, children implanted before age 3 are mainstreamed in school before they reach the middle years of primary school."

Next: What Are the Keys to Cochlear Implant Success?

Mattox, reflecting a surgeon's caution, says it's impossible to predict how well an individual patient will hear after getting a cochlear implant.

"We do need to communicate with patients to make sure their expectations are reasonable," he says. "This is not a brand new ear. But it is tremendously beneficial to many, many people. The exact results in a given patient are unpredictable. We do have adult patients who talk on the telephone the day after they get the implant. Some people don't achieve those levels, and we don't know why."

Madell says there's nothing wrong with high hopes -- providing children and their parents are willing to work hard for success.

"We expect outstanding results," she says. "I believe there is virtually nobody who doesn't do well with cochlear implants if they are managed appropriately."

Madell notes that cochlear implants in both ears give much better results than single-ear implants. Even so, she stresses proper management. That has three components:

  • Fine-tuning. Madell's center sees each patient 10-12 times, making sure the implants are "mapped" to get the right frequency for each component of spoken language.
  • Good therapy. Emphasizing listening to spoken language rather than lip reading or sign language.
  • Involved parents. "Even more important is the need for a parent or caregiver who will participate in therapy and do it at home," Madell says. "Somebody needs to talk to this child every waking minute."
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