Age-related changes in prosodic features of maternal speech to prelingually deaf infants with cochlear implants

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January 2013

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This study investigated prosodic and structural characteristics of infant‐directed speech to hearing‐impaired infants as they gain hearing experience with a cochlear implant over a 12‐month period of time. Mothers were recorded during a play interaction with their HI infants (N = 27, mean age 18.4 months) at 3, 6, and 12 months postimplantation. Two separate control groups of mothers with age‐matched normal‐hearing infants (NH‐AM) (N = 21, mean age 18.1 months) and hearing experience‐matched normal‐hearing infants (NH‐EM) (N = 24, mean age 3.1 months) were recorded at three testing sessions. Mothers produced less exaggerated pitch characteristics, a larger number of syllables per utterance, and faster speaking rate when interacting with NH‐AM as compared to HI infants. Mothers also produced more syllables and demonstrated a trend suggesting faster speaking rate in speech to NH‐EM relative to HI infants. Age‐related modifications included decreased pitch standard deviation and increased number of syllables in speech to NH‐AM infants and increased number of syllables in speech to HI and NH‐EM infants across the 12‐month period. These results suggest that mothers are sensitive to the hearing status of their infants and modify characteristics of infant‐directed speech over time.