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Study takes personal approach to cochlear implant programming

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Vanderbilt University Medical Center recently received a $3.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve outcomes for children with significant hearing loss by providing individualized, prescription-like programming for their cochlear implants.

The study, led by researchers from VUMC’s Departments of Hearing and Speech Sciences and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Vanderbilt University’s School of Engineering, aims to determine whether the approach will impact a child’s ability to acquire speech, language and literacy skills.

According to the study’s principal investigators, Rene Gifford, PhD, and Stephen Camarata, PhD, children currently receive the same type of cochlear implant programming as adults even though a child’s ability to process speech information and discriminate pitch is much less developed.

“We’ve taken what we know about programming cochlear implants for adults and applied that to children, and it has worked reasonably well,” said Gifford. “But the issue is that we aren’t using our underlying knowledge of what the child is actually doing with that signal to acquire language and develop literacy skills.”