Implants Aid Deaf Best at Young Age

The earlier deaf children get cochlear implants, the more likely they are to speak and comprehend language normally later in life, new research suggests.

In one study, children ages 1 to 3 showed rapid improvement in understanding speech during the first year after receiving one of the electronic devices, with the best results in the youngest children.

In another, 43 percent of children who got implants at age 2 had normal oral language abilities at ages 8 to 9, compared with just 16 percent of youngsters who received implants at age 4, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas researcher Ann Geers found.

Geers said the longer implant use by the youngest children studied does not explain her results. Instead, she and other researchers say that very early childhood is an especially critical period in the development of language skills.

Both studies appear in May's Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery, released yesterday.

Cochlear implants, typically implanted in one ear, use electrodes to transmit sounds to the auditory nerve and brain, bypassing nonfunctioning parts of the ear.

Link of Diabetes, Alzheimer's Bolstered

Diabetes may significantly increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's, a study of 824 nuns, priests and Catholic brothers found, bolstering the evidence linking the two diseases.

The participants in the study were 55 and older when the research began and were followed for an average of about six years. The researchers calculated that diabetics faced a 65 percent increased risk of developing the mind-robbing disease.

The link remained strong even when the researchers factored in the prevalence of strokes.

Previous research has linked diabetes with memory problems, and diabetes is known to damage blood vessels that supply the brain. But studies looking specifically at diabetes and Alzheimer's have had conflicting results.

The study was led by Zoe Arvanitakis and David Bennett and colleagues at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. It was published yesterday in the May issue of Archives of Neurology.

-- From News Services