The lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to many potential negative effects on children. There are many concerns about what it means for socialization, education, nutrition, and how children who need additional resources in school will fare.
Gordon et al. (2021) conducted a study with children recruited from the Cochlear Implant Program at a tertiary pediatric hospital in Ontario, Canada. In this cohort study of 45 children, sound environments, cataloged through data logging within their cochlear implants, were measured both before and during COVID-19 lockdowns in Ontario, Canada. The pre-COVID-19 ratio of speech: quiet (1.6:1.0) significantly reduced to 0.9:1.0 during lockdowns, particularly in school-aged children.
Hours of sound were captured by the Cochlear Nucleus data logging system (Cochlear Corporation) in six categories of input levels (<40, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, ≥80 A-weighted dB sound pressure levels [dBA]) and six auditory scene categories (quiet, speech, speech-in-noise, music, noise, and other).
The findings of this cohort study indicate a clear association of COVID-19 lockdowns with a reduction in spoken communication access for these children. COVID-19 lockdowns were linked to a reduction in exposure to spoken communication. As children with hearing loss are already at risk of less-than-optimal outcomes for language, this additional reduced exposure could have increased risk of poorer outcomes. Making parents aware of the reduction and encouraging increased spoken language during the pandemic could help mitigate the results.
Gordon K, et al. (2021) Exposure to spoken communication in children with cochlear implants during the COVID-19 lockdown. JAMA Otolaryngo–Head & Neck Surg. February 18. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.5496.
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