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Vol. 15, No. 1, 2010
Issue release date: December 2009
Audiol Neurotol 2010;15:7–17

Earlier Intervention Leads to Better Sound Localization in Children with Bilateral Cochlear Implants

Van Deun L. · van Wieringen A. · Scherf F. · Deggouj N. · Desloovere C. · Offeciers F.E. · Van de Heyning P.H. · Dhooge I.J. · Wouters J.
aExpORL/Department of Neurosciences, KU Leuven, and bDepartment of ORL, UZ Leuven, Leuven, cUniversity Department of ORL, Antwerp University Hospital, Antwerp University, Edegem, dService ORL, Clinique St-Luc-UCL, Bruxelles, eENT Department, AZ St. Augustinus, Wilrijk, and fDepartment of ORL, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

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We present sound localization results from 30 children with bilateral cochlear implants. All children received their implants sequentially, at ages from 6 months to 9 years for the first implant and 1.5–12 years for the second implant, with delays of 10 months to 9 years. Localization was measured in the sound field, with a broadband bell-ring presented from 1 of 9 loudspeakers positioned in the frontal horizontal plane. The majority of the children (63%) were able to localize this signal significantly better than chance level. Mean absolute error scores varied from 9 to 51° (root mean square error scores from 13 to 63°). The best scores were obtained by children who received their first implant before the age of 2 years and by children who used hearing aids prior to implantation for a period of 18 months or longer. Age at second implantation was important in the group of children who did not use a contralateral hearing aid during the unilateral implant period. Additionally, children who attended a mainstream school had significantly better localization scores than children who attended a school for the deaf. No other child or implantation variables were related to localization performance. Data of parent questionnaires derived from the Speech, Spatial and Qualities of Hearing Scale were significantly correlated with localization performance. This study shows that the sound localization ability of children with bilateral cochlear implants varies across subjects, from near-normal to chance performance, and that stimulation early in life, acoustically or electrically, is important for the development of this capacity.

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