Deaf teens have stronger language and reading skills if their hearing problems were detected at an early age, a new study suggests.
Researchers looked at a group of deaf children in England who were diagnosed with permanent hearing loss through an infant screening program conducted in the 1990s.
A follow-up of the children at age 8 found that those who were screened by the time they were 9 months old had better language and reading skills than deaf children who weren't screened as infants.
This new study assessed the children at age 17, and found the gap in language and reading skills between the screened and unscreened groups had doubled since age 8.
The findings are published Nov. 25 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
"Our previous work has shown that children exposed to newborn hearing screening had, on average, better language and reading abilities at age 8 years. We are now able to show that this screening program can benefit these children into their teenage years," study leader Dr. Colin Kennedy, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of Southampton in England, said in a university news release.
"We believe that the early superiority in the reading skills of the children who were screened may have enabled them to read more demanding material more frequently than their peers with later confirmed hearing difficulties, thus increasing the skill gap between the two groups," he explained.
"Screening all babies for hearing impairment at birth enables families to have the information they need to support their baby's development, leads to benefits of practical importance at primary school and now, secondary school and further education," Kennedy concluded.
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