IMPORTANCE: Children who receive a cochlear implant (CI) for early severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss may achieve age-appropriate spoken language skills not possible before implantation. Despite these advances, reduced access to auditory experience may have downstream effects on fundamental neurocognitive processes for some children with CIs. OBJECTIVE: To determine the relative risk (RR) of clinically significant executive functioning deficits in children with CIs compared with children with normal hearing (NH). DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: In this prospective, cross-sectional study, 73 children at a hospital-based clinic who received their CIs before 7 years of age and 78 children with NH, with average to above average mean nonverbal IQ scores, were recruited in 2 age groups: preschool age (age range, 3-5 years) and school age (age range, 7-17 years). No children presented with other developmental, cognitive, or neurologic diagnoses. INTERVENTIONS: Parent-reported checklist measures of executive functioning were completed during psychological testing sessions. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Estimates of the RR of clinically significant deficits in executive functioning (≥1 SDs above the mean) for children with CIs compared with children with NH were obtained based on 2 parent-reported child behavior checklists of everyday problems with executive functioning. RESULTS: In most domains of executive functioning, children with CIs were at 2 to 5 times greater risk of clinically significant deficits compared with children with NH. The RRs for preschoolers and school-aged children, respectively, were greatest in the areas of comprehension and conceptual learning (RR [95% CI], 3.56 [1.71-7.43] and 6.25 [2.64-14.77]), factual memory ( 4.88 [1.58-15.07] and 5.47 [2.03-14.77]), attention (3.38 [1.03-11.04] and 3.13 [1.56-6.26]), sequential processing (11.25 [1.55-81.54] and 2.44 [1.24-4.76]), working memory (4.13 [1.30-13.06] and 3.64 [1.61-8.25] for one checklist and 1.77 [0.82-3.83] and 2.78 [1.18-6.51] for another checklist), and novel problem-solving (3.93 [1.50-10.34] and 3.13 [1.46-6.67]). No difference between the CI and NH samples was found for visual-spatial organization (2.63 [0.76-9.03] and 1.04 [0.45-2.40] on one checklist and 2.86 [0.98-8.39] for school-aged children on the other checklist). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: A large proportion of children with CIs are at risk for clinically significant deficits across multiple domains of executive functioning, a rate averaging 2 to 5 times that of children with NH for most domains. Screening for risk of executive functioning deficits should be a routine part of the clinical evaluation of all children with deafness and CIs.
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