1290 Word Learning in Deaf Children with Cochlear Implants

Sunday, February 21, 2010: 3:30 PM
Room 2 (San Diego Convention Center)
Derek Houston , Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN
Accumulating evidence suggests that deaf children who receive cochlear implants at early ages tend to achieve better spoken-language outcomes than children implanted later.  For example, earlier cochlear implantation is associated with larger vocabulary size in pre-school aged children. The advantage of early implantation may simply be due to having more time to learn spoken words.  However, it is possible that children implanted earlier may be better word learners than children implanted later.  Developing proficient auditory word-learning skills may depend on having early access to auditory input.  This talk will discuss findings from a study that addressed the role of early auditory experience on deaf children’s word-learning skills after cochlear implantation. 
    Word-learning skills were tested in twenty deaf children and twenty normal hearing age-matched controls using the Intermodal Preferential Looking Paradigm.  The deaf children received their cochlear implants between eight and twenty-two months of age and were tested twelve to eighteen months after cochlear implantation. We found that deaf children’s word-learning performance was strongly affected by their early auditory experience. Those who were implanted by thirteen months of age performed similarly to normal-hearing children, whereas those who were implanted later performed, on average, more poorly than their normal-hearing peers. However, among the later implanted children, those who had relatively more hearing before cochlear implantation exhibited word-learning skills similar to the early implanted children. Taken together, the findings suggest that early access to auditory input, even if the access to sound is quite impoverished, plays an important role in acquiring the ability to rapidly learn associations between spoken words and their referents.
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