Cochlear Ltd, New South Wales, Australia, West China Hospital, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, and the House Ear Institute, Los Angeles, have joined forces to commence a landmark project to study the long-term benefits of early cochlear implantation for young deaf children in China.

“This large-scale longitudinal study is the first of its type in China and marks a milestone in the study of cochlear implant outcomes in China,” says Sigfrid D. Soli, PhD, head, Laboratory for Human Communication Sciences and Devices, House Ear Institute, and one of the project’s co-directors.

The study will be conducted at West China Hospital of Sichuan University over a 4-year period and will evaluate the development of speech and language abilities in 120 children who receive a cochlear implant before the age of 5 years. The cochlear implant team at West China Hospital is headed by Prof Zheng Hong, MD, who will perform the cochlear implant surgeries. The children will be evaluated several times in the first year after implantation, and annually thereafter for 3 years. It is during this period that language skills develop most rapidly and the foundation for the following important years of education and learning are established.

Separate groups of children with normal hearing, and children with a profound hearing loss who use hearing aids, will also be evaluated on the same longitudinal schedule for comparison purposes.

The research will identify key factors in the early development of speech and language abilities of normal hearing children and of profoundly hearing-impaired children who use cochlear implants and those using hearing aids.

“We anticipate that the knowledge gained from this research can lead to improved outcomes in the early treatment of deaf and hearing impaired children throughout China,” says Yun Zheng, MD, director, Hearing Center, Outpatient Clinic, West China Hospital, and one of the project’s co-directors.

“It is important that we understand the specific outcomes being achieved in China so the cochlear implant program can be tailored appropriately to ensure the best possible results for all children,” says Mark Salmon, president Asia Pacific, Cochlear Limited.

The House Ear Institute (HEI) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on advancing hearing science through research and education to improve quality of life. HEI scientists investigate the cellular and molecular causes of hearing loss and related auditory disorders as well as neurological processes pertaining to the human auditory system and the brain. Its researchers also explore technology advancements to improve auditory implants, hearing aids, diagnostic techniques, and rehabilitation tools. The Institute shares its knowledge with the scientific and medical communities as well as the general public through its education and outreach programs.

Cochlear Ltd specializes in cochlear and bone conduction implant technology.

West China Hospital is a large comprehensive teaching and research hospital, and has been ranked among the top hospitals in China since 1990. It is the primary medical center for complex and severe cases, medical education, and scientific research in southwest China. The Hearing Center, affiliated with the hospital’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, is a leading hearing center in China. It is also a national education and training center of the Chinese Academy of Audiological Rehabilitation. The Cochlear Implant Center is one of 10 centers in China designated by the Chinese Ministry of Health to perform donated cochlear implant surgeries.

[Source: Newswise]