Study recommends exposing deaf children to sign language before and after cochlear implantation | MedicalXpress

Many researchers and clinicians advise the parents of a deaf child waiting for a cochlear implant to avoid sign language and focus exclusively on spoken language.

This is due to the widespread belief that exposing a deaf child to sign language actually interferes with the learning of spoken language after the implant has restored hearing.

It’s thought that using sign language leads to a “visual takeover” of brain pathways that would otherwise be dedicated to hearing.

But a recent study suggests that exposing deaf children to sign language before and after cochlear implantation has positive effects on spoken language and the ability to remember the sounds used in words, also known as phonological memory.

The study was conducted by Audrey Delcenserie, a Ph.D. student supervised by François Champoux, a professor in the School of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at Université de Montréal. The work is published in the journal Developmental Science.

Delcenserie compared the language abilities of deaf children who had been exposed to sign language before and after cochlear implantation with those of deaf children who had never had any exposure to sign language, and with children with normal hearing.

“Our results show that early exposure to sign language improves not only the child’s spoken vocabulary, but also their morphological and phonological awareness, phonological memory and expressive grammar,” said Delcenserie.

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