Infant-directed speech enhances attention to speech in deaf infants with cochlear implants

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Publication Date

January 2017

Publication Title

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

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Purpose: Both theoretical models of infant language acquisition and empirical studies posit important roles for attention to speech in early language development. However, deaf infants with cochlear implants (CIs) show reduced attention to speech as compared with their peers with normal hearing (NH; Horn, Davis, Pisoni, & Miyamoto, 2005; Houston, Pisoni, Kirk, Ying, & Miyamoto, 2003), which may affect their acquisition of spoken language. The main purpose of this study was to determine (a) whether infant-directed speech (IDS) enhances attention to speech in infants with CIs, as compared with adult-directed speech (ADS), and (b) whether the degree to which infants with CIs pay attention to IDS is associated with later language outcomes. Method: We tested 46 infants—12 prelingually deaf infants who received CIs before 24 months of age and had 12 months of hearing experience (CI group), 22 hearing experience–matched infants with NH (NH-HEM group), and 12 chronological age–matched infants with NH (NH-CAM group)—on their listening preference in 3 randomized blocks: IDS versus silence, ADS versus silence, and IDS versus ADS. We administered the Preschool Language Scale–Fourth Edition (PLS-4; Zimmerman, Steiner, & Pond, 2002) approximately 18 months after implantation to assess receptive and expressive language skills of infants with CIs. Results: In the IDS versus silence block, all 3 groups looked significantly longer to IDS than to silence. In the ADS versus silence block, both the NH-HEM and NH-CAM groups looked significantly longer to ADS relative to silence; however, the CI group did not show any preference. In the IDS versus ADS block, whereas both the CI and NH-HEM groups preferred IDS over ADS, the NH-CAM group looked equally long to IDS and ADS. IDS preference quotient among infants with CIs in the IDS versus ADS block was associated with PLS-4 Auditory Comprehension and PLS-4 Expressive Communication measures. Conclusions: Two major findings emerge: (a) IDS enhances attention to speech in deaf infants with CIs; (b) the degree of IDS preference over ADS relates to language development in infants with CIs. These results support a focus on input in developing intervention strategies to mitigate the effects of hearing loss on language development in infants with hearing loss.