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Cochlear Implants Int. 2013 Mar;14(2):80-91. doi: 10.1179/1754762812Y.0000000004.

Children with bilateral cochlear implants identify emotion in speech and music.

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Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.



This study examined the ability of prelingually deaf children with bilateral implants to identify emotion (i.e. happiness or sadness) in speech and music.


Participants in Experiment 1 were 14 prelingually deaf children from 5-7 years of age who had bilateral implants and 18 normally hearing children from 4-6 years of age. They judged whether linguistically neutral utterances produced by a man and woman sounded happy or sad. Participants in Experiment 2 were 14 bilateral implant users from 4-6 years of age and the same normally hearing children as in Experiment 1. They judged whether synthesized piano excerpts sounded happy or sad.


Child implant users' accuracy of identifying happiness and sadness in speech was well above chance levels but significantly below the accuracy achieved by children with normal hearing. Similarly, their accuracy of identifying happiness and sadness in music was well above chance levels but significantly below that of children with normal hearing, who performed at ceiling. For the 12 implant users who participated in both experiments, performance on the speech task correlated significantly with performance on the music task and implant experience was correlated with performance on both tasks.


Child implant users' accurate identification of emotion in speech exceeded performance in previous studies, which may be attributable to fewer response alternatives and the use of child-directed speech. Moreover, child implant users' successful identification of emotion in music indicates that the relevant cues are accessible at a relatively young age.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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