Cochlear Implants in Young Children

John K. Niparko, Rebecca Blankenhorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The cochlear implant is best characterized as a device that provides access to the sound environment. The device enables the hearing pathway to respond to environmental and speech sounds, providing informational cues from the surroundings and from others that may escape visual detection. As the developmental effects of a profound hearing loss are multiple, cochlear implants have been applied to ever younger children in an attempt to promote a more normal level of developmental learning through audition. In deafness, transducer elements of the inner ear fail to trigger auditory nerve afferent nerves in the presence of sound input. However, large reserves of afferent fibers exist even in the auditory nerve of a profoundly deaf patient. Furthermore, these nerve fibers retain the ability to respond to prosthetic activation. Through developmental learning in the early, formative years, auditory centers of the brain appear capable of processing information from the implant to provide speech comprehension and oral language development. Multichannel implants have replaced original single channel designs. multichannel devices enable larger percentages of recipients to recognize the spoken word without visual cues because they provide spectral information in addition to temporal and intensity cues. Testing under conditions of auditory (implant)-only input reveals significant open-set speech understanding capabilities in more than 75% of children after three years of device use. The benefit provided by implants may vary with a number of conditions including: hearing history, age of deafness onset, age at implantation, etiology of deafness, linguistic abilities, and the presence of a motivated system of support of oral language development. Patient variables should be given individual consideration in judging candidacy for a cochlear implant and in planning rehabilitative and education services after surgery and activation of the device.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-275
Number of pages9
JournalMental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2003


  • Auditory development
  • Cochlear implant
  • Deafness
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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