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Ear Hear. 2003 Jun;24(3):236-47.

Exploring the language and literacy outcomes of pediatric cochlear implant users.

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University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 200 Hawkins Drive, 21200 PFP, Iowa City, IA 52242-1078, USA.



The principal goal of this study was to investigate the relationship between language and literacy (i.e., reading and writing) skills in pediatric cochlear implant users. A peripheral objective was to identify the children's skills that were in need of remediation and subsequently to provide suggestions for remedial programming. It was predicted that the robust language skills often associated with children who have cochlear implant experience would facilitate the development of literacy skills. It was further proposed that the language and literacy skills of pediatric cochlear implant users would approximate the language and literacy skills of children with normal hearing.


Sixteen pediatric cochlear implant users' language and literacy skills were evaluated and then compared with a reference group of 16 age-matched, normal-hearing children. All 32 participants were educated in mainstream classes within the public school system in the Midwest. The "Sentence Formulation" and "Concepts and Directions" subtests of the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-3 test were used to evaluate receptive and expressive language skills. Reading comprehension was evaluated with the "Paragraph Comprehension" subtest of the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test. Performance measures for the writing analyses included productivity, complexity and grammaticality measures.


Children with cochlear implants performed within 1 SD of the normal-hearing, age-matched children on measures of language comprehension, reading comprehension and writing accuracy. However, the children with cochlear implants performed significantly poorer than the children with normal hearing on the expressive "Sentence Formulation" subtest. The cochlear implant users also produced fewer words on the written narrative task than did the normal-hearing children, although there was not a significant difference between groups with respect to total words per clause. Furthermore there was a strong correlation between language performance and reading performance, as well as language performance and total words produced on the written performance measure for the children using cochlear implants.


The results of this study suggest that the language skills of pediatric cochlear implant users are related to and correlated with the development of literacy skills within these children. Consequently, the performance of the cochlear implant users, on various language and literacy measures, compared favorably to an age-matched group of children with normal hearing. There were significant differences in the ability of the cochlear implant users to correctly utilize grammatical structures such as conjunctions and correct verb forms when they were required to formulate written and oral sentences. Given this information, it would be appropriate for their educational or remedial language programs to emphasize the use and development of these structures.

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