Istanbul — Over 350 hearing care professionals and ENT specialists from more than 40 countries attended Phonak’s Fourth European Conference on Pediatric Amplification. Highlights from the Istanbul conference included presentations on the benefits of early implantation of pediatric cochlear implants and new hearing aid fitting methods for infants and children.
The conference started with a presentation from neuroscientist Dr Anu Sharma from the University of Colorado, who showed that only an implantation of a cochlear implant in the first 3.5 years of life can avoid a reorganization of the central auditory pathways.
A lack of auditory stimulation during this sensitive period may result in a disconnection between areas of the brain that connect sound with meaning. Furthermore, without auditory stimulation, the region of the brain used for hearing may be reallocated to other senses, such as sight, which results in the children having more difficulty learning oral language.
Sharma also presented the results of a study focused on children with auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder, which affects 10 -15% of children with sensorineural hearing loss. He emphasized that early intervention with this population is crucial in facilitating optimal speech and language outcomes.
Another speaker at the conference was Dr Harvey Dillon from the National Acoustic Laboratory in Sydney, who spoke about the challenges of fitting infants and young children. Unlike adults, children are too young to articulate feedback to help fine tune the hearing instrument. Dillon showed how cortical response measurements to speech sounds are already routinely used in Australia to verify audibility of aided speech or to support a decision for cochlear implantation, especially for children with multiple disabilities.
Andrea Bohnert of the University Medical Center in Mainz, Germany, (pictured) also spoke about infants and children who have a high frequency hearing loss and experience great difficulty in identifying speech cues, such as /s/, /sh/ and/f/. This affects speech and language development and communication in their daily environment. Bohnert demonstrated how non-linear frequency compression (NLFC) can significantly improve speech intelligibility in children and reiterated that the output bandwith of conventional hearing instruments is often not broad enough to make these sounds audible. The case studies presented showed that children were more satisfied with NLFC compared to conventional amplification. Bohnert also highlighted a pediatric fitting protocol for NLFC.
The 2-day event concluded with an encouraging look back at pediatric audiology by Dr Anne Marie Tharpe from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Videos of children treated at the center in 1987 and today were played to demonstrate how far pediatric audiology has come in allowing hearing impaired children to hear and speak almost like their hearing peers.
The papers for these and other presentations are available for download on Phonak’s website. Phonak’s next conference on new developments in adult hearing care and FM systems will take place on December 2-5 in Las Vegas.