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Dev Sci. 2012 May;15(3):448-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2012.01140.x. Epub 2012 Feb 23.

Word learning in deaf children with cochlear implants: effects of early auditory experience.

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Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.


Word-learning skills were tested in normal-hearing 12- to 40-month-olds and in deaf 22- to 40-month-olds 12 to 18 months after cochlear implantation. Using the Intermodal Preferential Looking Paradigm (IPLP), children were tested for their ability to learn two novel-word/novel-object pairings. Normal-hearing children demonstrated learning on this task at approximately 18 months of age and older. For deaf children, performance on this task was significantly correlated with early auditory experience: Children whose cochlear implants were switched on by 14 months of age or who had relatively more hearing before implantation demonstrated learning in this task, but later implanted profoundly deaf children did not. Performance on this task also correlated with later measures of vocabulary size. Taken together, these findings suggest that early auditory experience facilitates word learning and that the IPLP may be useful for identifying children who may be at high risk for poor vocabulary development.

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