Deaf Children With Cochlear Implants Learn New Words Faster Interview with:

BruceBlaus - Own work An illustration of a cochlear implant.

An illustration of a cochlear implant: Wikipedia image

Niki Katerina Vavatzanidis MSc
Department of Neuropsychology
Max Planck Institute for Human and Cognitive Brain Science
Leipzig, Germany
Technische Universität Dresden, Germany What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Cochlear implants (CIs) are a way of providing hearing to sensorineural deaf individuals. The implant works by first picking up sounds from the environment and transforming them into an electric signal. Via an array of electrodes the implant then transmits the signal directly to the auditory nerve, which then leads to auditory sensations in the brain.

In our study, we were interested to see how language acquisition is affected when language immersion occurs at an untypically late age. Children with cochlear implants that grow up in exclusively or predominantly hearing environments will have their first language encounter at the time of implantation, which nowadays is roughly between the age of one and three. Besides the later starting point in language acquisition, children with CIs are facing a compromised input quality compared to typical hearing.

We know from typically hearing children that it is around the age of 14 months that their vocabulary becomes robust enough to react to name violations. That is, when a picture is labelled incorrectly, their brain waves will display with the so-called N400 effect. In our study we were interested whether children with CIs would also show the N400 effect and if so, how many months of hearing experience are necessary. We measured the brain activity of children implanted between the age of one and four at three time points: 12, 18, and 24 months after implant activation. To our surprise, congenitally deaf children whose only language input had been via the cochlear implant already displayed the N400 effect after 12 months of language immersion, i.e. earlier than seen in typically hearing children.   Continue reading

Hearing Loss Associated With Higher Risk of Cognitive Decline and Dementia Interview with:
“Hear” by Jaya Ramchandani is licensed under CC BY 2.0David G. Loughrey, BA(Hons)

NEIL (Neuro Enhancement for Independent Lives) Programme
Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, School of Medicine
Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland What is the background for this study?

Response: Age-related hearing loss, a common chronic condition among older adults, has emerged in the literature as a potential modifiable risk factor for dementia. This is of interest as current pharmacological therapies for dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease only offer symptom-modifying effects. Treatment of risk factors such as hearing loss may help delay the onset of dementia and may provide an alternate therapeutic strategy. However, there is variance in the research on hearing loss and cognition with some studies reporting a small or non-significant association. In this meta-analysis, we investigated this association and we only included observational studies that used standard assessments of cognitive function and pure-tone audiometry (the clinical standard).

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