A Penn State researcher has published a study on the social and educational developments of deaf children with cochlear implants in mainstream schools.

The children, of the first generation to grow up with the implants, did well. overall, said Daniela Martin of Penn State Brandywine. She studied the oral communication and peer relationships in 19 kids over 10 years.

A cochlear implant is a small electronic device surgically placed in the inner ear that provides a sense of sound to the deaf and those with profound hearing loss.

"What we found around this age was the social complexity of middle school," she said. "And how the deaf children, and importantly their hearing friends, deal with these differences.

"We know that all children at this age need to feel accepted to develop a good self-image," she said.

Linda Heller, the president of the Hearing Loss Association in Delaware, said children who learn sign language may develop as adults with a grade-school level education. The implants, she said, have made a big difference in education of the deaf.

"The outcomes are astounding and it's just remarkable these children," said Heller.

Not everyone is sold on the value of the implants.

Some students learn better with sign language, said Della Thomas, director of the Delaware School for the Deaf, which offers a combination of sign language and spoken language-based teaching.

"If they benefit from the cochlear implant, if their family wants them to get that implant, if they will have access to sound, go for it. There's no problem with it," she said.

"But it's really not an either-or for us. Because a child gets a cochlear implant doesn't mean they can't have access to visual language," she said.

Cochlear implants were first approved by the FDA in 1985.