Now into its 11th year, the Longitudinal Outcomes of Children with Hearing Impairment (LOCHI) study has revealed that infants detected with hearing loss and fitted with hearing aids soon after birth develop better spoken language abilities at 5 years of age than those whose hearing loss was discovered later. Infants who receive cochlear implants before 12 months of age develop better language than those who receive a cochlear implant at a later age.

These research outcomes put into action the World Health Organisation’s International Ear Care Day Theme for 2016: Childhood Hearing loss: act now, here is how!

The LOCHI study, a joint endeavor of the National Acoustic Laboratories and the HEARing Cooperative Research Centre (HEARing CRC) is led by NAL’s Dr Teresa Ching, and is facilitated by the CRC’s multiple service organisations across Australia participating in the research.

HEARing CRC CEO Professor Robert Cowan said that more than 400 children with hearing loss were initially assessed at six and 12-months after the switch-on of a hearing device, and then again at three, five, and nine years of age. He said we expect to assess them again at 15 and 22 years of age.

“These assessments of speech, language and functional skills are non-invasive, and take about two to four hours to complete. In addition, parents, caregivers and teachers are also asked to fill out questionnaires and report on the child’s developmental progress,” Prof. Cowan explained, “It’s a bit like the ‘Up Series’ documentaries for hearing device fitting in children!”

Research evidence from the LOCHI study reveals how our management of hearing loss in newborns can make a substantial difference to what they can achieve.

It is clear that early detection and early fitting of hearing technology to infants with hearing loss is beneficial for spoken language and psychosocial development over the first 5 years of life.

The LOCHI study has allowed information of this kind to be collected at a population level in a prospective manner for the first time. The evidence has been instrumental in shaping the national paediatric clinical program of Australian Hearing, the national provider of audiological services for children, in managing childhood hearing loss in Australia, and has contributed to guidelines for paediatric amplification internationally.

“We have already translated the evidence on the efficacy of early detection and early provision of hearing technology into clinical practice,”

“The same research outcomes are also playing a valuable role in guiding clinicians’ counsel for families with children who have been recently diagnosed with hearing loss.” Prof. Cowan said.

Long-term follow-up of the LOCHI cohort also revealed that many children had marked deficits in specific pre-reading skills. This finding highlighted the need for research into intervention methods within an evidence-based framework, with the ultimate goal of capitalising on the opportunity of early detection and fitting to enable children born with hearing loss to reach their full potential.

For more information about the LOCHI study go here: outcomes.nal.gov.au

The HEARing Cooperative Research Centre is financially supported by the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Programme. Further information about the CRC Programme is available at: www.business.gov.au.

For further information contact: Greg Lawrence, Online Communications Manager

e: glawrence@hearingcrc.org, t: (03) 9035 5351, mob: 0431 426 623