When considering a cochlear implant, people often ask whether they should wait for future technology before getting implanted. But the short answer is: no. While it is important to make an informed choice and feel comfortable with your decision to get a cochlear implant, research shows that earlier is better. Here are three reasons hearing health professionals agree “earlier is better” when it comes to cochlear implants.
1. Better Outcomes
If you are considering a cochlear implant for your child and wish for them to develop spoken communication, getting a cochlear implant as early as possible will give them the best opportunity to do so. Large, population-based, long-term research shows that children who received a cochlear implant before 12 months of age developed significantly better spoken language skills than those children who received a cochlear implant later.
Early cochlear implantation and early intervention in children with hearing loss has also been linked to the development of language, speech, and reading skills similar to that of children without hearing loss.
For adults, the duration of untreated hearing loss is considered a factor that may predict outcomes with a cochlear implant. The sooner a CI candidate receives a cochlear implant, the sooner the brain can begin to learn to interpret the sounds from the cochlear implant. This can reduce the impact of hearing loss on quality of life, work, and social relationships.
2. Brain Function
The brain develops, makes new connections, adapts, and changes more readily in the first years of life allowing children to learn rapidly from their environment. This is referred to as ‘brain plasticity’ and it reduces over childhood.
Children must be immersed in language from a young age to learn to understand and use the language being spoken around them. Long-standing research shows there is a sensitive period in which the brain most easily learns language. The most sensitive period for language learning is up to approximately 3.5 years of age. The longer a child has time to be exposed to language during this time period, the better.
Receiving a cochlear implant early makes the most of the brain’s plasticity and the sensitive period for language learning in the early years, giving your child the best chance to develop spoken language.
For older adults, there is evidence that untreated hearing loss leads to an increased risk of cognitive decline, social isolation, depression, and dementia. Encouragingly, recent studies have also shown that the use of a cochlear implant in older adults with severe hearing loss led to an improvement in cognitive function compared to a similar group of adults with hearing loss but without cochlear implants.
3. Time / Catching Up
Typically hearing children are immersed in language from the day they are born. Well actually, even earlier, as the hearing system develops in the womb, at 20 weeks. From day one, children are learning to communicate and are developing the basic skills needed for more complex communication (such as talking and reading).
Learning to associate sounds to objects, recognize their caregiver’s voices, and beginning to coo and babble are just a few of the skills babies learn in their first 12 months. Children are like sponges absorbing and learning new words rapidly in their first years. Home language input has been linked to verbal skills, cognitive ability, and reading skills in children without hearing loss.
The longer a child’s hearing loss is untreated, the more likely it is they will develop a larger communication gap between their language skills and that of their peers—one that becomes more and more difficult to close or catch up. When children do receive a cochlear implant, they must master those basic communication skills before they can learn more the complex skills of talking, reading, and writing.
Future Technology and Advancements
With a MED-EL cochlear implant, you don’t need to worry about missing out on future technology. All MED-EL implants from the last 24 years are compatible with our current CI audio processors. And when we design our new audio processors, we make them fully compatible with all of our implants, so you’ll always be able to easily upgrade to the latest technology.
Our cochlear implants are also built with structure preservation in mind. Our super-flexible electrodes help keep the delicate structures of the inner ear intact, which in turn helps preserve residual hearing. This means that you can take advantage of new therapies or future technologies.
Chat to a Cochlear Implant Recipient
If you’re thinking about a cochlear implant, it might be helpful to talk to someone who has been in your situation. Through Hearpeers, you can talk to cochlear implant recipients themselves about their experiences. Start chatting to them at hearpeers.com.
Read more about why structure preservation is so important.
Learn about the best age to get a cochlear implant.
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The content on this website is for general informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please contact your doctor or hearing specialist to learn what type of hearing solution is suitable for your specific needs. Not all products, features, or indications shown are approved in all countries.