A new study shows that the effects of deafness extend to basic cognitive functions and begin surprisingly early in life.
Researchers at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center say it's the first study to compare the visual processing skills in hearing and deaf infants. They found it takes longer for deaf infants to become familiar with new objects, even non-auditory information. When babies successfully encode a visual object, they lose interest and look away. Researchers showed infants ages 7 to 22 months a colorful object on a screen. Study co-author Derek Houston says deaf infant looking times were 30 seconds longer than hearing infants, and the deaf infant look away rate about 40 percent lower than hearing infants.
"We really didn't expect necessarily that deaf infants would show any difference in this very basic, non-verbal, visual-only habituation task," Houston said. "This might mean that they pay more attention - not necessarily because they are slower at visual processing - but it might be because they are actually processing more about the visual object."
Future research will further examine why these differences in visual learning exist so that interventions can be tailored to children and lead to healthy development. The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.