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Diagnosing Deafness Early Will Help Teenagers' Reading Development: Study

Update Date: Nov 26, 2014 10:02 AM EST

Deaf teenagers have better reading skills if they were identified as deaf by the time they were nine months old, a new study has found. 

Researchers have been studying the development of a group of children who were identified with permanent childhood hearing impairment (PCHI) at a very early age in a pilot screening program conducted in Southampton and London in the 1990s. 

Follow up assessments when the children were aged eight showed those who were screened at birth had better language skills than those children who were not screened, the press release said. 

"Our previous work has shown that children exposed to newborn hearing screening had, on average, better language and reading abilities at age eight years. We are now able to show that this screening program can benefit these children into their teenage years," said lead researcher Colin Kennedy, professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of Southampton and a consultant pediatric neurologist at Southampton General Hospital, in a press 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.

"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."

The study was published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

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