Newswise — Two to three in every 1,000 children are born with a hearing loss that is likely to impact development. Research of the auditory system at its early developmental stages, and efforts to identify hearing loss and initiate appropriate rehabilitation strategies, can be crucial to the healthy development of a child.

Laurie Eisenberg, Ph.D., is a House Ear Institute investigator on two multicenter projects involved in understanding the effects of hearing loss on young children as they mature; both studies are funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The first project is a 10-year, multicenter study entitled "Childhood Development After Cochlear Implantation, (CDaCI)," in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, and University of Miami. In this study, Dr. Eisenberg and her staff are investigating the long-term outcomes in young deaf children fitted with cochlear implants before five years of age.

“We know that while cochlear implants have profoundly affected the rehabilitation of deaf children, the conditions that best support the use of this technology need more in-depth study with large samples of children who are tracked over a long period of time.” she stated.

The researchers rely heavily on standardized measures as well as video analysis of each participant to determine how individual innate abilities and interactions with a parent affect the ability to learn spoken language. A recent publication from this investigation highlighted the importance of early implantation in promoting more rapid rates of language growth.

The second multicenter project is a five-year study entitled “Development and Adaptive Behavior in Young Children with Hearing Loss.” This investigation focuses on the developmental outcomes of preschool-age children (ages 12 to 48 months) with mild to severe hearing loss who have been fitted with hearing aids. In collaboration with investigators from San Diego State University and Indiana University School of Medicine, Dr. Eisenberg and her research staff administer an extensive battery of tests on a number of developmental domains. According to Dr. Eisenberg, “There are very few studies that address developmental outcomes in children who use hearing aids. Results from this investigation are expected to define the potential advantages of early fitting of hearing aids.”

“These two large-scale studies address the complex question of how children use partially restored hearing from a sensory device to learn, listen and develop spoken language during a period when cognitive and communication milestones arrive in a rapid-fire sequence. These studies will provide new information to help parents and teachers determine how best to teach a child with hearing loss to relate to a world that includes the sounds of speech. There will be multiple benefits for parents who participate in these studies. Parents will gain a better understanding of the abilities and needs of their child. This understanding is critical to helping parents seek or direct further therapy and opportunities for their child,” Dr. Eisenberg stated.