Deaf children learn words faster than hearing children

According to estimates by the Robert Koch Institute, up to two thousand hearing impaired children are born in Germany each year. For some of them a cochlear implant can offer relief. Until now, it was not clear which processes take place in the affected children when they start to learn language later than their contemporaries with normal hearing—and why they differ in their success to reach a normal level of language. A current study at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig and University Medical Centre Dresden found that deaf children with a cochlear implant learn words even faster than those with normal hearing. This finding can help refine the search for the reasons behind their varying success in language acquisition. Vavatzanidis NK, Mürbe D, Friederici AD, Hahne A
“Children with cochlear implants could help us understand the general processes of language acquisition and determine which single steps are age-dependent” Angela D. Friederici explains, study leader and head of MPI CBS. “We now know that age does not affect how fast children learn words. On the contrary, they seem to catch up even if they were previously disadvantaged.” Upcoming studies should now focus on why some of the affected children, despite these findings, struggle to reach the level of their contemporaries with normal hearing.