The objective of this study was to assess self-reported health-related quality of life (HR-QOL) in a group of children with cochlear implants (CIs) and to compare their scores to age- and gender-matched controls. The authors also assessed the agreement between proxy- and self-reported HR-QOL in the CI group and examined individual and environmental variables that could be associated with higher or lower self-reported HR-QOL in the CI group.
The sample consisted of 168 children between the ages of 5;6 and 13;1 (years;months), where 84 children had CIs (CI group) and 84 were age- and gender-matched controls with normal hearing (NH group). HR-QOL was assessed with the generic questionnaire Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory. Parents of the children in the CI group completed the same questionnaire as the children. In addition, the children in the CI group completed tests of language, hearing, and nonverbal I.Q. and background variables such as age at implantation and socioeconomic status were assessed.
On average, children with CIs rated their HR-QOL lower than peers with normal hearing on school functioning, social functioning, and overall HR-QOL. A higher percentage of children with CIs reported low levels of HR-QOL than did those in the NH group, 27% and 12%, respectively. The differences between groups were small, and fewer children than parents reported concerningly low HR-QOLs. Better spoken-language skills and older age at the time of testing was associated with better HR-QOL.
Most children with CIs in this study reported HR-QOLs that were close to those of their age- and gender-matched normal-hearing peers. The children, however, reported concerns about social and school functioning, indicating that these areas require more attention to ensure children with CIs have good HR-QOL. Improving spoken-language skills in children with CIs may contribute to improved HR-QOL.