Children with unilateral hearing loss (UHL) have been found to have lower language scores, and increased rate of speech therapy, grade failures, or needing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). The objective of this study was to determine whether language skills and educational performance improved or worsened over time in a cohort of children with UHL.
Prospective longitudinal cohort study.
Forty-six children with permanent UHL, ages 6 to 12 years, were studied using standardized cognitive, achievement, and language testing at yearly intervals for 3 years. Using standardized test scores allowed implicit comparison to norms established by national cross-sectional samples. Secondary outcomes included behavioral issues, IEPs, receipt of speech therapy, or teacher report of problems at school. Analysis utilized repeated measures analysis of variance and multilevel random regression modeling.
Several cognitive and language mean standardized scores increased over time. Possible predictors of increase with time included higher baseline cognitive levels and receipt of interventions through an IEP. However, standardized achievement scores and indicators of school performance did not show concomitant improvements. Rates of IEPs remained >50% throughout, and rates of speech therapy were consistently about 20%.
Children with UHL demonstrated improvement in oral language and verbal intelligence quota scores over time, but not improvements in school performance. Parents and teachers reported persistent behavioral problems and academic weaknesses or areas of concern in about 25%. The provision of IEPs for children with UHL, and acknowledging UHL as a hearing disability, may be an effective intervention to improve language skills over time. Laryngoscope, 2012