Fort Myers speech therapist

Fort Myers Speech Therapist on Cochlear Implants and Speech-Language Development

If your child has or is expected to need cochlear implants, they may also need speech therapy. Consultation with a Fort Myers speech therapist can help parents ascertain whether their child will likely need speech-language therapy and if so, how to begin the process to minimize time spent on waitlists.

What are Cochlear Implants?

Cochlear implants are sophisticated medical devices designed to provide a sense of sound to individuals with severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss – especially those who do not benefit from conventional hearing aids. While hearing aids work by amplifying sound, cochlear implants bypass the damaged parts of the inner ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. As a Fort Myers speech therapist can explain, this in turn allows the brain to perceive sound.

The cochlear implant system has two main components:

  • The external part is worn behind the ear. This has a microphone, sound processor, and transmitter.
  • The internal part that is surgically placed under the skin and inside the inner ear. This contains a receiver/stimulator and an electrode array.

For children, cochlear implants are typically recommended when doctors diagnose profound hearing loss and both ears. Some conditions that can lead to a cochlear implant recommendation:

  • Congenital hearing loss. This is when a child is born with severe-to-profound hearing loss.
  • Progressive hearing loss. This is when a child develops significant hearing loss over time.
  • Meningitis. This type of infection can result in the hardening of the cochlea in the inner ear. This condition is especially difficult because the implant must be done early, before the cochlea becomes too hard to insert the electrodes.

Kids usually must undergo extensive evaluations with a multidisciplinary team (typically audiologists, otolaryngologists, speech-language pathologists, etc.) to determine if they’re a good candidate for cochlear implants. If they are – and particularly if it’s before they have fully developed speech-language skills – they are likely going to need speech-language therapy to keep pace with their peers.

Cochlear Implants & Speech Development

Cochlear implants can be wonderful for a child with severe hearing loss or deficits. However, they’re still likely to need speech-language therapy. They may have varying degrees of difficulty or delays with articulation, phonological processing, and reduced vocabulary.

Children with early implantation (prior to 18 months) will generally show better speech-language outcomes, thanks to their early access to sound, which can facilitate more natural language acquisition. For children who get implants later, a Fort Myers speech therapist is likely to recommend more intensive therapy for that child to reach maximum speech proficiency.

A study published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research in 2023, scientists concluded that kids who receive cochlear implants before fully developing speech-language skills (usually before age 5) will generally attain those skills – but slower than their typical hearing peers. They’ll usually talk later as well.

Fort Myers speech therapist helps child with cochlear implant

Part of this, researchers opine, is that cochlear implant recipients don’t hear exactly what the rest of us hear. Rather, their brains map a signal. Based on the fact that some older recipients talk about being “mentally fatigued” and needing rest after interaction, some scientists think that use of the implants actually requires an additional level of language processing.

That doesn’t mean that they can’t learn to communicate just as effectively, but they may need some additional help doing so. Speech therapy can help.

Consult With a Fort Myers Speech Therapist

The dedicated Fort Myers speech therapists at FOCUS Therapy recognize that while cochlear implants can dramatically improve a child’s ability to hear and process sounds, their journey to effective communication doesn’t end with surgery.

Our team can play a pivotal role in helping children with cochlear implants overcome their speech and language delays. We have the specialized knowledge and techniques essential for guiding kids through the complex process of effective communication.

Speech therapists can work with kids on:

  • Auditory training. This includes sound detection, sound discrimination, sound identification, and sound comprehension.
  • Speech development. We’ll practice articulation, phonological awareness, and speech intelligibility.
  • Language development. We’ll help kids work on building up their vocabulary, nailing down grammar and syntax, and pragmatic language skills.

We’ll also help with parent and training and support, offering the most effective ways to practice and support your child’s communication journey.

FOCUS Therapy offers pediatric speech therapy, ABA therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Cochlear Implants, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Our Fort Myers Speech-Language Therapy Strategies for Kids, May 3, 2024, Fort Myers Speech Therapist Blog

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