Cochlear Implantation in Children with Single-Sided Deafness: Does Aetiology and Duration of Deafness Matter?

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For adult patients with single-sided deafness (SSD), treatment with a cochlear implant (CI) is well established as an acceptable and beneficial hearing rehabilitation method administered routinely in clinical practice. In contrast, for children with SSD, CI has been applied less often to date, with the rationale to decide either on a case-by-case basis or under the realm of clinical research. The aim of our clinical study was to evaluate the longitudinal benefits of CI for a group of children diagnosed with SSD and to compare their outcomes with respect to patient characteristics. Evaluating a pool of paediatric SSD patients presenting for possible CI surgery revealed that the primary aetiology of deafness was congenital cochlear nerve deficiency. A subgroup of children meeting the CI candidacy criteria for the affected ear (the majority with acquired hearing loss) were enrolled in the study. Preliminary group results suggest substantial improvements in speech comprehension in noise and in the ability to localise sound, which was demonstrated through objective and subjective assessments after CI treatment for the group, with results varying from patient to patient. Our study shows a trend towards superior outcomes for children with acquired hearing loss and a shorter duration of hearing loss compared to congenitally deafened children who had a longer duration of SSD. This indicates an interactive influence of the age at onset, aetiology and duration of deafness upon the restoration of binaural integration and the overall benefits of sound stimulation to two ears after CI treatment. Continued longitudinal investigation of these children and further studies in larger groups may provide more guidance on the optimal timing of treatment for paediatric patients with acquired and congenital SSD.

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