Children who use cochlear implants (CIs) have characteristic pitch processing deficits leading to impairments in music perception and in understanding emotional intention in spoken language. Music training for normal-hearing children has previously been shown to benefit perception of emotional prosody. The purpose of the present study was to assess whether deaf children who use CIs obtain similar benefits from music training. We hypothesized that music training would lead to gains in auditory processing and that these gains would transfer to emotional speech prosody perception.Design:
Study participants were 18 child CI users (ages 6 to 15). Participants received either 6 months of music training (i.e., individualized piano lessons) or 6 months of visual art training (i.e., individualized painting lessons). Measures of music perception and emotional speech prosody perception were obtained pre-, mid-, and post-training. The Montreal Battery for Evaluation of Musical Abilities was used to measure five different aspects of music perception (scale, contour, interval, rhythm, and incidental memory). The emotional speech prosody task required participants to identify the emotional intention of a semantically neutral sentence under audio-only and audiovisual conditions.Results:
Music training led to improved performance on tasks requiring the discrimination of melodic contour and rhythm, as well as incidental memory for melodies. These improvements were predominantly found from mid- to post-training. Critically, music training also improved emotional speech prosody perception. Music training was most advantageous in audio-only conditions. Art training did not lead to the same improvements.Conclusions:
Music training can lead to improvements in perception of music and emotional speech prosody, and thus may be an effective supplementary technique for supporting auditory rehabilitation following cochlear implantation.