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Listening Age for Implanted Children

Margaret Fish, MS, CCC-SLP

July 23, 2007



I am looking for research that focuses on implants and listening age. For example if a child was implanted at the age of 3 1/2 and has been in school, and intelligence appears age appropriate, should the child be listening/ processing information at their


The concept of listening age is a very helpful one clinically, but remember, it is only a clinical guideline, rather than a standardized way of evaluating progress. Basically, a child "ages" or matures in listening once she has access to sound via a cochlear implant. So, a child who has had an implant for 3 1/2 years would be expected to demonstrate auditory skills similar to a 3 1/2 year old, not a six year old. 3 1/2 years of auditory experience can rarely compare to a normal-hearing child who has had 6 years of auditory experience.

However, there is another issue here, and that is language proficiency. Auditory development and language proficiency are not the same thing. If a child has been listening for 3 1/2 years, and has a language age equivalent of a 3 1/2 year old, we would only expect her to perform on language tasks (like the comprehension-of-a-passage task you mentioned) at the 3 1/2 year level. Before evaluating your child for a processing disorder, I would suggest you seek a thorough assessment of her language comprehension and production by a speech-language pathologist familiar with the communication development of implanted children. In particular, the assessment should determine how your daughter handles lengthy and complex linguistic information in a face- to-face, not auditory-only, situation. That will tell you what her maximum language abilities are at present.....her language ability in an auditory-only situation will likely be somewhat lower than that.

For more information on Advanced Bionics, visit www.bionicear.com

Amy McConkey Robbins, M.S., CCC-SLP is a private practice speech language pathologist in Indianapolis where she provides diagnostic and therapy services to children, advises school districts on the management of children with hearing loss, and consults with Advanced Bionics Corporation.

margaret fish

Margaret Fish, MS, CCC-SLP

Margaret is a speech-language pathologist working in private practice in Highland Park, Illinois, with over 30 years experience as a pediatric SLP. Her primary professional interests are in the areas of children’s speech sound disorders, language disorders, and social language development. Margaret is the author of the book, Here’s How to Treat Childhood Apraxia of Speech, now in its Second Edition. She is a frequently invited speaker at local, state, and national workshops. Her workshops and writing focus on providing practical, evidence-based ideas to support clinicians working with children with CAS. Margaret serves on the Professional Advisory Board for the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA) and is a topic area advisor for the SpeechPathology.com Advisory Board.