Normal hearing and language development in a deaf-born child.
Congenital deafness leads to major problems in speech, language, education, and social integration. Neonatal hearing screening and cochlear implantation now allow early hearing restoration. This article reports on a prospective longitudinal study of the first infant ever who received two cochlear implants in the prelexical period of her life. The first deaf-born girl ever who received two implants at the ages of 5 and 15 months, respectively, was followed-up with repeated and detailed quantitative assessments from birth to 4 years of age. This consisted of 1) audiologic evaluation (audiometry, speech audiometry, and Categories of Auditory Performance score), 2) linguistic evaluation (monthly video analyses and tests of vocabulary, language skills, grammar, and intelligibility of the child's speech), and 3) descriptive assessment of the educational setting. All results lie within the 95% confidence interval of hearing peers. The audiologic performance lies at or above average from age 2 years onward. The child started babbling at the normal age of 8 months. Her linguistic skills increased from low percentiles before age 2 to above average from age 2 for comprehension and from age 3 for production. The grammar and intelligibility of the child's speech increased from low percentiles to average at age 4. The girl entered preschool at the normal age of 2.5 years, and this with only very limited special assistance. This case illustrates the fact that congenital deafness no longer has to lead to abnormal hearing and abnormal speech development. It opens the debate of the ethics of not implanting a deaf child in the first few months of life.