The costs and stress of surgery on child
and family, however, led scientists to search for an early and
minimally invasive way of predicting the need for an implant.
Now a preliminary study suggests that a
technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) could be
the solution, and a follow-up study is under way in UC's Department of
Otolaryngology and the Imaging Research Center at Cincinnati Children's
Hospital Medical Center to confirm it.
Being able to evaluate hearing and speech
recognition in very young children is crucial to the success of
cochlear implants, says Daniel Choo, MD,ÊUC associate professor of
otology/neurotology and physician at Cincinnati Children's.
"In optimal cases, children successfully
implanted at 12 months can perform as well as their normally hearing
peers," Dr. Choo says. "Early identification and treatment for all
hearing-impaired infants can prevent permanent language delays and
allow children to reach their full communication and education
Funded by a $3 million, five-year
National Institutes of Health grant, the study involves 90 patients,
including 30 normally hearing infants serving as controls.
The fMRI scan not only reveals the
anatomy of cochlear and other structures. The test also shows
activation of the areas responsible for auditory detection, speech
perception and language processing, says Scott Holland, PhD, professor
of radiology, pediatrics, physics and neuroscience at UC and the
Imaging Research Center at Cincinnati Children's.
"If we see brain activation, we expect
the child to do well," Dr. Holland says. "By the end of the research
project, we hope to know definitively if fMRI is an accurate predictor
The researchers will correlate
pre-implant brain activation patterns revealed by fMRI with hearing
performance two years after cochlear implantation.
A new law requiring universal neonatal
screening for hearing loss has brought more hearing-impaired children
to Cincinnati Children's, a leader in the treatment of their condition.