Characterizing Perception of Prosody in Children with Hearing Loss
Soman, Uma Gokhale
The ability to adequately perceive and utilize the prosody of spoken language is important for successful communication. Children with hearing loss who use cochlear implants have demonstrated deficits in perception of stress and intonation in spoken language, but not rhythm in music, compared to children who use hearing aids or children who have normal hearing. These deficits have been attributed in part to limitations of cochlear implant technology. Wearing a hearing aid in addition to the cochlear implant can reduce some of these deficits. In this study, perception of stress, intonation, and speech rhythm was compared among 8-16 year old children with hearing loss who used cochlear implants, children with hearing loss who used bimodal technology - one cochlear implant and one hearing aid in the contralateral ear, and children with normal hearing. The results of this study indicated that most children were sensitive to stress, intonation, and rhythm of speech. Children with hearing loss were comparable to children with normal hearing in their sensitivity to stress and rhythm, and intonation present in unfiltered, connected speech, but were deficient in their perception of intonation present in low-pass filtered speech. Children with hearing loss were comparable to children with normal hearing when identifying the language of an utterance based on phonemic and prosodic cues, but were deficient when minimal phonemic cues were present. Children who used bilateral cochlear implants performed similarly to children who used bimodal technology, indicating that sensitivity to prosodic features was possible with either of the hearing technologies. Audiological factors such as early amplification, longer duration of auditory exposure, and adequate low-frequency access had a positive impact on perception of prosody in speech. The finding that children with hearing loss were comparable to children with normal hearing in their perception of stress and intonation is in contrast to previous findings, and might be attributed to differences in task design as well as in audiological and intervention characteristics of the children in this study compared to previous studies.