Children with hearing loss (CHL) exhibit delays in language function relative to children with normal hearing (CNH). However, evidence on whether these delays extend into other cognitive domains such as working memory is mixed, with some studies showing decrements in CHL and others showing CHL performing at the level of CNH. Despite the growing literature investigating the impact of hearing loss on cognitive and language development, studies of the neural dynamics that underlie these cognitive processes are notably absent. This study sought to identify the oscillatory neural responses serving verbal working memory processing in CHL compared to CNH. To this end, participants with and without hearing loss performed a verbal working memory task during magnetoencephalography. Neural oscillatory responses associated with working memory encoding and maintenance were imaged separately, and these responses were statistically evaluated between CHL and CNH. While CHL performed as well on the task as CNH, CHL exhibited significantly elevated alpha-beta activity in the right frontal and precentral cortices during encoding relative to CNH. In contrast, CHL showed elevated alpha maintenance-related activity in the right precentral and parieto-occipital cortices. Crucially, right superior frontal encoding activity and right parieto-occipital maintenance activity correlated with language ability across groups. These data suggest that CHL may utilize compensatory right-hemispheric activity to achieve verbal working memory function at the level of CNH. Neural behavior in these regions may impact language function during crucial developmental ages.
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