Children who receive cochlear implants (CI) to help alleviate severe to profound hearing loss are at greater risk of having deficiencies in executive functioning (EF), which are the skills to organize, control and process information in a goal-directed manner.

Permanent hearing loss is a common condition of early childhood, occurring in about 1.5 of every 1,000 births. Cochlear implants help children to achieve spoken language because the devices help them perceive sound. Still, children with cochlear implants can struggle with reading and writing skills and other aspects of cognition.

The authors studied 73 children who received their CIs before 7 years of age and 78 children with normal hearing (NH). Parents reported measures of executive functioning using a checklist.

Children with CIs had two to five times greater risk of executive functioning deficiencies compared to children with normal hearing. The risk was greatest in the areas of comprehension and conceptual learning, factual memory, attention, sequential processing, working memory and novel problem solving.

"Currently, habilitation and intervention after cochlear implantation focus primarily on speech and language; programs that target EF skills are also needed with this clinical population."