NAL proves early hearing help gives children better outcomes

Media Release
November 2018

Pioneering research by the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), the research division of Hearing Australia, has found unequivocal evidence that the earlier a child with hearing loss can be fitted with a hearing aid or cochlear implant, the better the outcome1.
Results from NAL’s Longitudinal Outcomes of Children with Hearing Impairment (LOCHI) study show that early fitting of hearing devices is key to achieving better speech, language and psychosocial outcomes for children with hearing loss1.
Dr Teresa Ching, Head of the Communication Sciences Department at NAL, explains that the LOCHI study supports, for the first time, the benefits of newborn hearing screening and early intervention, at a population level1.
“The results show that children who receive early help with their hearing loss, and receive early educational intervention, have significantly better language outcomes, on average, than those whose hearing loss was discovered later,” says Dr Ching.
“We know how important the early years are for children. Babies use sounds to tune in to their native language and to learn the meaning of the sounds around them. The more a child hears, especially in the first few years of life, the better the outcomes.”
LOCHI is a population-based study on outcomes of children with hearing loss with evaluations conducted at several points in time over the first 10 years of life.  The study covers 470 children born with hearing loss between 2002 and 2007 in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, and who first received hearing aids or cochlear implants by three years of age. All the children received the same consistent, post diagnostic services from Hearing Australia. The LOCHI study is conducted by NAL and HEARing CRC, with funding from the Australian Government and the National Institute of Health (US)1.
“The evidence from the LOCHI study is already being put into practice to improve outcomes for children with hearing loss around the world,” explains Dr Brent Edwards, Director of NAL. “The importance of these findings for policy makers is evident: the earlier hearing aids or cochlear implants are provided, the better the outcomes2.”
“It’s really important that parents and healthcare professionals take immediate action if they suspect a child may have a hearing problem,” says Dr Edwards.
Mr Kim Terrell, Managing Director of Hearing Australia, commended NAL for this work.  “NAL has received international recognition for the LOCHI study. The work is a credit to NAL and its HEARing CRC partners,” says Mr Terrell.

NAL will continue to monitor the development of the children in the LOCHI study as they journey through childhood, and will measure their educational and social outcomes as well as their quality of life in young adulthood. The International Journal of Audiology recently published the outcome of the Year 5 phase of the LOCHI project1.

LOCHI summary paper

Paediatrics Paper
1Robert S. C. Cowan, Brent Edwards & Teresa Y. C. Ching (2018) Longitudinal outcomes of children with hearing impairment (LOCHI): 5 year data, International Journal of Audiology,57:sup2, S1-S2, DOI: 10.1080/14992027.2018.1458703
2Australian Hearing Annual Report 2017/18

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