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Laryngoscope. 2008 Aug;118(8):1443-8. doi: 10.1097/MLG.0b013e318173a011.

Nonverbal cognitive abilities and auditory performance in children fitted with auditory brainstem implants: preliminary report.

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Ear, Nose, and Throat Department, University of Verona, Verona, Italy.



Auditory brainstem implants (ABIs) can provide excellent open set speech recognition in adults without auditory tumors. These favorable results prompted us to extend ABI indications to children with profound hearing loss (HL) who are not candidates for a cochlear implant (CI). This article reports on the auditory performance and cognitive development measured in children with ABIs.


This study quantifies the development of auditory perceptual and nonverbal cognitive abilities of children with profound HL undergoing ABI. From 2000 to 2006, 17 children aged 14 months to 16 years received an ABI for different tumor and nontumor diseases in our department in Verona, and nine children were operated in other countries. Six of the children had been previously fitted elsewhere with a CI with no auditory results. Fourteen children had multiple associated psychomotor handicaps.


The retrosigmoid approach was used in all children. Intraoperative and postoperative electrically evoked auditory brainstem responses were performed in all children. Perceptual auditory abilities were evaluated with the Evaluation of Auditory Responses to Speech battery and the Category of Auditory Performance test. Cognitive evaluation was performed on 10 children using the Leiter International Performance Scale-Revised test.


All children consistently use their devices for 8 h/d at average and have environmental sound awareness and utterance of words and simple sentences. Their category of auditory performance test scores increased significantly with ABI use. Scores on two of the four subtests considered for cognitive evaluation in this study increased significantly (P < .05) during the first year of ABI use. Postimplant cognitive outcomes were positively related to the auditory results.


The present investigation clearly indicates that children who are not candidates for CI fitted with ABI obtain significant development of their hearing ability and a significant improvement in some cognitive parameters. The outcomes of the present study suggest that children with cochlear or cochlear nerve abnormalities with associated cognitive deficits should not be excluded from ABI implantation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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