The National Acoustics Laboratory in Australia under the supervision of Dr. Teresa Ching has conducted the Longitudinal Outcomes of Children with Hearing Impairment (LOCHI) study over a period of years. In Australia, all children with hearing loss are followed by Australia Hearing, so collecting data on performance of children with hearing loss is easier. All children receive evidence based audiology and habilitative services. Children are monitored carefully over time. Audiology tests are well organized. Hearing aids are fit using prescriptive targets and are monitored to be sure that they are meeting prescribed targets. All children receive hearing aids and cochlear implants as needed with no cost to families (wow! – ideal). All have complete language, literacy, and social skills evaluations in addition to audiological evaluations.
Because all children throughout the country are monitored by the same agency, it is possible to really evaluate many aspects of development for children with hearing loss. Every child is monitored. There is no selection bias in research. Children will be monitored over a long period of time and should provide outstanding data to help us understand what makes a child successful.
468 children are participating in the LOCHI studies. 305 use hearing aids and 163 use cochlear implants. Some of the cochlear implant students are bilateral and others bimodal. Here is what has been learned so far.
- Fit technology early and fit it right – not a surprise. Although this appears obvious, it is important that we recognize that this is really critical. The LOCHI data shows that for children with severe hearing loss, outcomes decrease by 0.3 SD when hearing aid fitting is delayed from 6-12 months and another 0.3 SD when delayed to 24 months. Similar results are observed for children with moderate hearing loss. These data confirm the need for accurate early fitting of technology and should push EDHI providers to encourage parents to fit technology early and to use it full time. Children fit later are delayed and the time cannot be made up. The LOCHI data also demonstrated that is critical to verify the output of hearing aids using RECD and probe microphone measurements. Meeting target gains is critical.
- Cochlear implantation needs to happen early. Children who received CI’s early performed better. A delay of 6-12 months resulted in a decrease of 0.7 SD in language outcomes with an additional 0.4 SD reduction for children implanted from 12-18 months and another 0.3 SD for children implanted between 18-24 months. This data makes the best case so far for implanting children before their first birthday. CI teams, auditory verbal practitioners, speech-language pathologists and educators, need to push to get children who are not doing well implanted early.
- Monitoring language outcomes – A significant goal of the LOCHI studies was to try and determine prognostic factors that could be used to predict how children with hearing loss are progressing to enable them and us to identify intervention that might be needed early to improve progress. They identified the PEACH as an excellent tool to provide the necessary information. The PEACH (Parents Evaluation of Aural/Oral Performance of Children with Hearing Loss) questionnaire was found to be a good predictor. The PEACH is designed to evaluate how children with hearing loss communicate in every day situations. Testing showed that children who had poorer Peach scores before 12 months of age had poorer outcomes at 5 years of age. This may actually be good information. If we can identify children at risk early on, it may be possible to modify intervention so that we can improve outcomes.
- ANSD – Of the 40 children with ANSD in the LOCHI studies, there was no significant difference in language outcomes at 5 years of age when compared to other children with hearing loss. This is very exciting and hopeful information. It means that, with appropriate management, children with ANSD can have good outcomes. The NAL uses speech-evoked cortical responses to determine if hearing aids should be fit on children with ANSD, and to determine if they are likely to benefit. If it is determined that they are not likely to benefit, they are moved quickly to cochlear implants. Results are reported to be excellent if hearing aids are fit by 6 months and cochlear implants fit by 12 months.
- Language stimulation – The LOCHI study confirmed what was found in the earlier Hart and Risley study in 1995. Children whose mothers have higher education have better language outcomes. The reason for this is not clear. Perhaps mothers with higher education levels are talking to their children more. Perhaps mothers with less income do not understand the need for intensive language stimulation, or perhaps their lives are overwhelming and they cannot manage the additional stimulation needed by their children with hearing loss. What is clear is that EDHI programs need to recognize that language stimulation is critical and help families provide more and more.
- Literacy – The value of good literacy skills cannot be underrated. Children who do not have good literacy skills have problems learning and are underemployed. The LOCHI study demonstrated that phonologic awareness made a significant contribution to a child’s ability to read. The study controlled for for variations in receptive vocabulary, cognitive skills and other demographic variables. The ability to both break down words ( breakdown book into /b/, /u/, /k/) and rhyme words (cat, bat, hat, mat) are critical for literacy. Children with difficulties in phonologic awareness had difficulties in literacy. Providing early intervention skills to improve phonologic awareness can significantly improve literacy.
- Communication mode – Certainly a hot topic. Three fourths of the LOCHI families chose spoken language and the remaining chose total communication. The LOCHI researchers had no direct tie to any communication mode so the results should be considered reliable and unprejudiced. The language outcomes for children using spoken language were significantly higher than those using total communication. Since more than 95% of the children were born to hearing parents the families natural mode of communication was spoken language so they were more easily able to provide spoken language stimulation to their children. Families who chose sign language were learning a new language while trying to provide language stimulation to their children.
- 37% of children in the LOCHI study had additional disabilities. Children with additional disabilities had poorer language outcomes compared to children with no other disabilities. While this data is not surprising, it is critical. It is a reminder that all children with hearing loss need to be followed by a multidisciplinary team of professionals who can evaluate children for additional disabilities and provide whatever additional services are needed. The team should include speech-language pathologists familiar with language and literacy issues for both normal hearing and hearing impaired children, as well as physicians, psychologists physical and occupational therapists, and teachers. The group needs to work as a team planning for children in order for children to succeed.
What have we learned? We need to thank Dr Teresa Ching and the staff of the National Acoustics Laboratory for doing this excellent work. They have helped us to understand how important it is to move quickly to provide children with appropriately fit technology and habilitation. Fit hearing aids early and be sure they meet real ear goals. (I would add that we should validate test results in addition to using real ear. We need to use behavioral testing to assure that children are hearing what they need to hear. Monitor progress using the PEACH or another similar questionnaire. If a child is not making sufficient progress with hearing aids, fit cochlear implants early. Help parents learn to talk talk talk talk talk. Develop literacy skills early. We owe it to children with hearing loss to assure that they can be whomever they want to be.
I am a deaf mother of 3 deaf children and 1 hearing child. 2 of my deaf children are a part of the LOCHI research and have been since birth. I said yes I will be a part of the research because I believe in supporting people who are studying and wanting to collect data.
My son is a hearing aid wearer and he is also one of the deaf children with additional disabilties (ASD) my daughter is a bilateral cochlear implant user. They both have been raise signing and auditory from birth and NO they are not ‘total communicators’ they are Auslaners. Their first language is Auslan and their second language is English.
Only yesterday I shared the LOCHI page proudly because they have a photo of 3 of my 4 children and I was proud to be a part of the research team.
BUT my heart sank when I read this article. I did not expect this type of outcome. I am deeply offended and felt that we are harshly judged and compared against children who are successful by using ‘auditory’.
Now let me reassure you, many parents will disagree with me and will ‘roll their eyes’ thinking I am making a big deal over nothing. BECAUSE I am one of the very few who STILL believes a bridge can be build and still believes that there is hope for BOTH auditory and signing to be combined and IS successful.
I have never felt so insulted to see research stating “children who are TALKED TALKED TALKED from birth” are more successful than children who use total communication.
My question – am I not intelligent enough because I am deaf? is my children less worthy because they were exposed to signing from birth? are we in the lower category as unsuccessful?
No wonder we have this stupid endless battle about signing and auditory since 1880. Isn’t it time to stop this bias opinion and admit the fear of signing? isn’t it time we start becoming a diversity and accept each other as we are and promote the rights of a deaf child by exposing to ALL options not just auditory?
Please do consider before releasing such bias opinionated research when YOU know there is NOT enough research and that it is NOT facts.
I believe in the LOCKI study and all that it stands for but I think the way you delivered it ,tainted with your oralistics veiw point ,does it more harm than good.
People in the wider community will not take it seriously when you make comparisons between different communication choices especially when the testing has been done with a bias towards oral and the appropriate Auslan Linguistics assessments have never been used. How can you say the total communication user was more delayed when there has never been an assessment of the kids Auslan skills…. You have discredited the whole process in this one blog… Congrats
I understand your concerns and I am sorry that my article has upset you. I think that you are in a different position than most parents of deaf children. You were fluent in sign when your children were born. As a result, you were capable of providing your children with good rich language models in sign language. Your children had the opportunity to learn both languages. However, 95% of deaf children are born to hearing parents. They are not fluent in sign language. Even if the begin to learn sign language on the day they baby is born they will have very limited signing skills so their child will have limited language. However, since they already speak, they can speak to their child and provide a rich spoken language to their child in the same way that you were capable of providing rich sign language to your children . I am trying to learn Italian. I am not doing well and have very limited Italian skills. If I had to teach a child Italian they would have very poor language skills.
The point of the article was to help families understand that they need to talk talk talk to their children in the language that they speak well. Once children have one language they can learn another – as your children have done. But for most parents of deaf children, they cannot teach their children sign language well. You are a special case. I am sure that that information will come out when all the information from the LOCHI studies is finally published. The information I reported on was deaf children of hearing parents – which is the majority of deaf children and the information published so far. Deaf children of deaf parents who are already fluent in sign language when the children are born are a very small group. Please do not be insulted. Please understand what I was trying to say.
Thank you for taking time to write.
The most important thing is to not make the deaf child feel that there is something wrong with him or her while being subjected to all these observations by professionals. Discretion is the name of the game. A deaf child growing up with self esteem intact is the most successful.
Wonderful to finally see such studies!
There are many who do incredibly well with oral alone and this now proves that.
Bring on the truth and the choices.
Every parent of a deaf child needs to see this outcome at diagnosis to make an informed choice, not just accept what has always just been. No matter what the choice is, it’s about the child’s rights to communication and full communication ,not a choice made by history.
Technology is giving our children a better option in life to live as any other child.
It’s about education and choice.
Please can you send me any citations to the LOCHI work which has already been published
I am a research nurse and also mother of a deaf child who is implanted and we use BSL/SSE/Spoken english at home – I would like to read the more technical aspects of the studies before I use any of this information to inform my family’s choices.