Affective properties of mothers’ speech to infants with hearing impairment and cochlear implants

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Publication Date

January 2012

Publication Title

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

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Purpose: The affective properties of infant-directed speech influence the attention of infants with normal hearing to speech sounds. This study explored the affective quality of maternal speech to infants with hearing impairment (HI) during the 1st year after cochlear implantation as compared to speech to infants with normal hearing. Method: Mothers of infants with HI and mothers of infants with normal hearing matched by age (NH-AM) or hearing experience (NH-EM) were recorded playing with their infants during 3 sessions over a 12-month period. Speech samples of 25 s were low-pass filtered, leaving intonation but not speech information intact. Sixty adults rated the stimuli along 5 scales: positive/negative affect and intention to express affection, to encourage attention, to comfort /soothe, and to direct behavior. Results: Low-pass filtered speech to HI and NH-EM groups was rated as more positive, affective, and comforting compared with the such speech to the NH-AM group. Speech to infants with HI and with NH-AM was rated as more directive than speech to the NH-EM group. Mothers decreased affective qualities in speech to all infants but increased directive qualities in speech to infants with NH-EM over time. Conclusions: Mothers fine-tune communicative intent in speech to their infant’s developmental stage. They adjust affective qualities to infants’ hearing experience rather than to chronological age but adjust directive qualities of speech to the chronological age of their infants.