The time course for the development of auditory perception in prelingually deaf children following cochlear implantation may extend over many years, thus making long-term studies necessary to evaluate any such outcome. However, few such studies exist in the literature. We prospectively followed-up a consecutive group of 133 prelingually deaf children up to 6 years following implantation. All children were prelingually deaf with age at onset of deafness < 3 years and age at implantation < 8 years. The aetiology of deafness was meningitis for 45 children (34%), congenital deafness for 77 children (58%) and other causes for 11 children (8%). All were implanted with a Nucleus-22 multi-channel cochlear implant and followed the same rehabilitation programme. No child was lost to follow-up and there were no exclusions from the study. Prelingually deaf children showed significant improvement in the auditory perception with implant experience. 82% of children who reached the 6-year interval could understand conversation without lip-reading. The respective percentage in the 4-year interval was 70%. The long-term results of cochlear implantation reveal that the majority of prelingually deaf children, when implanted before the age of 8 years, will develop significant auditory perception.
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