Development of pre-word-learning skills in infants with cochlear implants

Derek M. Houston, Elizabeth A. Ying, David B. Pisoni, Karen Iler Kirk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Families of infants who are congenitally deaf now have the option of cochlear implantation at a very young age. In order to assess the effectiveness of early cochlear implantation, however, new behavioral procedures are needed to measure speech perception and language skills during infancy. One important component of language development is word learning - a complex skill that involves learning arbitrary relations between words and their referents. A precursor to word learning is the ability to perceive and encode intersensory relations between co-occurring auditory and visual events. Recent studies in infants with normal hearing have shown that intersensory redundancies, such as temporal synchrony, can facilitate the ability to learn arbitrary pairings between speech sounds and objects (Gogate & Bahrick, 1998). To investigate the early stages of learning arbitrary pairings of sounds and objects after cochlear implantation, we used the Preferential Looking Paradigm (PLP) to assess infants' ability to associate speech sounds to objects that moved in temporal synchrony with the onset and offsets of the signals. Children with normal hearing ranging in age from 6, 9, 18, and 30 months served as controls and demonstrated the ability to learn arbitrary pairings between temporally synchronous speech sounds and dynamic visual events. Infants who received their cochlear implants (CIs) at earlier ages (7-15 months of age) performed similarly to the infants with normal hearing after about 2-6 months of CI experience. In contrast, infants who received their implants at later ages (16-25 months of age) did not demonstrate learning of the associations within the context of this experiment. Possible implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-326
Number of pages24
JournalVolta Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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