In a recent study on survivors of childhood cancers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Bess et al (2020) report an increased risk for neurocognitive deficits in children who have hearing loss after treatment.
The study sample of 1,512 cancer survivors was separated into groups based on the degree of hearing loss and type of cancer treatment. The three groups included those who received cisplatin and/or carboplatin chemotherapy, cochlear radiotherapy (RT) with or without platinum-based chemotherapy, or no exposure.
During the neurocognitive testing, participants were permitted, but not required to wear hearing aids.
When examiners believed the child’s hearing loss impacted the test results, those data were excluded from the analysis. The results suggested that participants who were exposed to chemotherapy and cochlear RT had more severe hearing losses than those with no exposure.
In addition, those with severe hearing losses showed significantly larger deficits in verbal reasoning skills, verbal fluency, visuomotor speed, and math skills than those with normal or mild hearing loss.
Results of this study highlight the importance of early neurocognitive screening and intervention for children who experience severe hearing loss from any type of cancer treatment. However, future studies will need to examine groups of children using appropriately-fit amplification to determine if the neurocognitive deficits are still present.
Bass JK, Liu W, Banerjee P, et al. (2020) Association of hearing impairment with neurocognition in survivors of childhood cancer. JAMA Oncol. Published online July 30, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.2822
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