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Acta Otolaryngol. 2007 Sep;127(9):943-6.

Beneficial auditory and cognitive effects of auditory brainstem implantation in children.

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  • 1ENT Department, University of Verona, Italy.



This preliminary study demonstrates the development of hearing ability and shows that there is a significant improvement in some cognitive parameters related to selective visual/spatial attention and to fluid or multisensory reasoning, in children fitted with auditory brainstem implantation (ABI). The improvement in cognitive paramenters is due to several factors, among which there is certainly, as demonstrated in the literature on a cochlear implants (CIs), the activation of the auditory sensory canal, which was previously absent. The findings of the present study indicate that children with cochlear or cochlear nerve abnormalities with associated cognitive deficits should not be excluded from ABI implantation.


The indications for ABI have been extended over the last 10 years to adults with non-tumoral (NT) cochlear or cochlear nerve abnormalities that cannot benefit from CI. We demonstrated that the ABI with surface electrodes may provide sufficient stimulation of the central auditory system in adults for open set speech recognition. These favourable results motivated us to extend ABI indications to children with profound hearing loss who were not candidates for a CI. This study investigated the performances of young deaf children undergoing ABI, in terms of their auditory perceptual development and their non-verbal cognitive abilities.


In our department from 2000 to 2006, 24 children aged 14 months to 16 years received an ABI for different tumour and non-tumour diseases. Two children had NF2 tumours. Eighteen children had bilateral cochlear nerve aplasia. In this group, nine children had associated cochlear malformations, two had unilateral facial nerve agenesia and two had combined microtia, aural atresia and middle ear malformations. Four of these children had previously been fitted elsewhere with a CI with no auditory results. One child had bilateral incomplete cochlear partition (type II); one child, who had previously been fitted unsuccessfully elsewhere with a CI, had auditory neuropathy; one child showed total cochlear ossification bilaterally due to meningitis; and one child had profound hearing loss with cochlear fractures after a head injury. Twelve of these children had multiple associated psychomotor handicaps. The retrosigmoid approach was used in all children. Intraoperative electrical auditory brainstem responses (EABRs) and postoperative EABRs and electrical middle latency responses (EMLRs) were performed. Perceptual auditory abilities were evaluated with the Evaluation of Auditory Responses to Speech (EARS) battery - the Listening Progress Profile (LIP), the Meaningful Auditory Integration Scale (MAIS), the Meaningful Use of Speech Scale (MUSS) - and the Category of Auditory Performance (CAP). Cognitive evaluation was performed on seven children using the Leiter International Performance Scale - Revised (LIPS-R) test with the following subtests: Figure ground, Form completion, Sequential order and Repeated pattern.


No postoperative complications were observed. All children consistently used their devices for >75% of waking hours and had environmental sound awareness and utterance of words and simple sentences. Their CAP scores ranged from 1 to 7 (average =4); with MAIS they scored 2-97.5% (average =38%); MUSS scores ranged from 5 to 100% (average =49%) and LIP scores from 5 to 100% (average =45%). Owing to associated disabilities, 12 children were given other therapies (e.g. physical therapy and counselling) in addition to speech and aural rehabilitation therapy. Scores for two of the four subtests of LIPS-R in this study increased significantly during the first year of auditory brainstem implant use in all seven children selected for cognitive evaluation.

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