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PLoS One. 2019 Feb 6;14(2):e0209265. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209265. eCollection 2019.

Visual habituation in deaf and hearing infants.

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Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio, United States of America.
Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, United States of America.
Insight Data Science, New York City, New York, United States of America.
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States of America.


Early cognitive development relies on the sensory experiences that infants acquire as they explore their environment. Atypical experience in one sensory modality from birth may result in fundamental differences in general cognitive abilities. The primary aim of the current study was to compare visual habituation in infants with profound hearing loss, prior to receiving cochlear implants (CIs), and age-matched peers with typical hearing. Two complementary measures of cognitive function and attention maintenance were assessed: the length of time to habituate to a visual stimulus, and look-away rate during habituation. Findings revealed that deaf infants were slower to habituate to a visual stimulus and demonstrated a lower look-away rate than hearing infants. For deaf infants, habituation measures correlated with language outcomes on standardized assessments before cochlear implantation. These findings are consistent with prior evidence suggesting that habituation and look-away rates reflect efficiency of information processing and may suggest that deaf infants take longer to process visual stimuli relative to the hearing infants. Taken together, these findings are consistent with the hypothesis that hearing loss early in infancy influences aspects of general cognitive functioning.

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Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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