NIH-Funded Study Uses AI to Improve Language for Children with Cochlear Implants

November 22, 2022

Research aims to use prediction to enable individualized therapy to improve spoken language

A new multicenter study will use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze pre-surgical brain MRI scans to predict individual-level language outcomes in English- and Spanish-learning children up to four years after cochlear implantation. The long-term goal of the research is to customize therapy to maximize children’s hearing and language ability after receiving a cochlear implant.

The study received funding of more than $3 million from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders awarded to Nancy M. Young, MD, from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Patrick C. M. Wong, PhD, from Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“Although cochlear implantation is the only effective treatment to improve hearing and enable spoken language for children with severe to profound hearing loss, spoken language development after early implantation is more variable in comparison to children born with typical hearing.” said Dr. Young, Medical Director of Audiology and Cochlear Implant Programs at Lurie Children's and the Lillian S. Wells Professor of Otolaryngology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Our study is the first to propose a ‘predict-to-prescribe’ approach to optimize language by determining which child may benefit from more intensive therapy. We believe this approach will be cost effective by targeting those most in need of additional therapy.”

The study will evaluate how the AI-enabled predictions of children’s language outcomes correspond to the degree of language gains after an intensive Parent-Implemented Communication Treatment (PICT) program. PICT is the only treatment of its kind whose effectiveness has been supported by a randomized controlled trial.

“We hypothesize that the more severe the predicted language impairment, the more the child could benefit from the communication treatment program,” explained Dr. Wong, who is the Director of Brain and Mind Institute and Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Linguistics at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Our translational research will advance the field of communication disorders through technological, theoretical and clinical innovations.”

Research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.