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Ear Hear. 2003 Feb;24(1):48-70.

Longitudinal changes in children's speech and voice physiology after cochlear implantation.

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  • 1Boys Town National Research Hospital, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.



The purposes of this investigation were 1) to describe speech/voice physiological characteristics of prelingually deafened children before and after cochlear implantation and determine whether they fall into a range that would be considered deviant, 2) to determine whether selected deviant articulatory and phonatory behaviors of children with cochlear implants persist despite long-term cochlear implant use and continued participation in aural rehabilitation services, and 3) to determine whether further development of deviant articulatory and phonatory behaviors occurs postimplantation.


Seven prelingually deafened children who received cochlear implants after 5 yr of age were followed from shortly before implantation until 5 to 6 yr postimplantation. These children received their early education in a Total Communication environment and used the Nucleus 22-electrode cochlear implant. All of them initially used the MPEAK speech processing strategy, and five of them eventually upgraded to the SPEAK speech processing strategy. Speech/voice physiological measurements that were obtained periodically from the children included intraoral air pressure (P(o)), nasal and phonatory air flow, voice onset time (VOT), and fundamental frequency (F(o)). Data from the deaf children were compared with a database from 56 children with normal hearing to determine when the deaf children exhibited "deviant" speech/voice behaviors. Speech/voice behaviors were considered "deviant" if they never occurred for children with normal hearing or were associated with z-scores that were outside the range of +/-2.0.


The deaf children showed a wide range of deviant speech and voice behaviors both pre- and post-cochlear implant. The most frequently occurring atypical behaviors were use of negative P(o), high P(o) for [b, m], long and short VOT for [p], and high F(o). Some deviant behaviors improved post-cochlear implant. However, deviant behaviors often persisted for several years post-cochlear implant. There was considerable evidence of further development of deviant behaviors post-cochlear implant. All of the deaf children demonstrated deviancy on at least two of our measures at the last data collection interval (5 to 6 yr post-cochlear implant).


Children who received cochlear implants after 5 yr of age and who were educated in a Total Communication setting showed persistence and further development of deviant speech/voice behaviors for several years post-cochlear implant. Although our findings cannot be generalized to other populations of children with cochlear implants (i.e., those who were implanted earlier, those educated in auditory-oral programs), it seems wisest at the present time not to assume that children's deviant speech/voice behaviors will remit spontaneously with continued cochlear implant use. Our data provide an important comparative database for future investigations of pediatric cochlear implant users who have had shorter periods of auditory deprivation and who have received cochlear implants with more current technological features. Longitudinal Changes in Children's Speech and Voice Physiology after Cochlear Implantation

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