“Based on this preliminary result, we are optimistic that a reliable machine learning model based on a larger training set can eventually be applied in the clinical setting to provide specific prognosis information to patients considering cochlear implantation,” he said. The aim now, he added, is to test the model in a larger sample so that it eventually may become a useful tool for clinicians.
Explore This IssueJanuary 2016
Beyond Speech and Language Skills
Nancy M. Young, MD, head of the section of otology/neurotology and medical director of the audiology and cochlear implant programs at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, believes these findings should be used for further research investigating ways to improve cochlear implantation in children, but she emphasized that they should not be used to exclude children from receiving cochlear implants.
“I think it is very important to learn about how brain structure affects speech and language outcomes, but the goal should be to use that knowledge to then individualize therapy to improve the outcome and to better counsel the family about outcomes as well,” she said.
Dr. Young, who also is engaged in research using functional imaging to better understand hearing loss in children, disagrees with what she sees as an underlying premise of the study that suggests that only children who can achieve excellent spoken language skills should be treated with cochlear implants.
“There are benefits of hearing that go beyond speech,” she emphasized, saying, among other things, that hearing helps us to better understand our environment and helps us engage with other people.
She also cited research showing that cochlear implants in children have a powerful impact not only on spoken language development but also on the ability to use sign language.
Clarifying that speech and language are the ultimate benefits of cochlear implants, Dr. Lu agreed that there are other benefits, such as hearing an oncoming car when crossing the street or responding when your name is called.
“These processes do not involve speech or even language but can be life changing and life saving,” he said, adding that their model may provide some pre-operative counseling to patients considering cochlear implantation even if it doesn’t exclude ineffective users of cognitive implants from this surgery.