Phonological Priming in Children with Hearing Loss: Effect of Speech Mode, Fidelity, and Lexical Status

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Abstract

Objectives:

This research determined (1) how phonological priming of picture naming was affected by the mode (auditory-visual [AV] versus auditory), fidelity (intact versus nonintact auditory onsets), and lexical status (words versus nonwords) of speech stimuli in children with prelingual sensorineural hearing impairment (CHI) versus children with normal hearing (CNH) and (2) how the degree of HI, auditory word recognition, and age influenced results in CHI. Note that the AV stimuli were not the traditional bimodal input but instead they consisted of an intact consonant/rhyme in the visual track coupled to a nonintact onset/rhyme in the auditory track. Example stimuli for the word bag are (1) AV: intact visual (b/ag) coupled to nonintact auditory (-b/ag) and 2) auditory: static face coupled to the same nonintact auditory (-b/ag). The question was whether the intact visual speech would “restore or fill-in” the nonintact auditory speech in which case performance for the same auditory stimulus would differ depending on the presence/absence of visual speech.

Design:

Participants were 62 CHI and 62 CNH whose ages had a group mean and group distribution akin to that in the CHI group. Ages ranged from 4 to 14 years. All participants met the following criteria: (1) spoke English as a native language, (2) communicated successfully aurally/orally, and (3) had no diagnosed or suspected disabilities other than HI and its accompanying verbal problems. The phonological priming of picture naming was assessed with the multimodal picture word task.

Results:

Both CHI and CNH showed greater phonological priming from high than low-fidelity stimuli and from AV than auditory speech. These overall fidelity and mode effects did not differ in the CHI versus CNH—thus these CHI appeared to have sufficiently well-specified phonological onset representations to support priming, and visual speech did not appear to be a disproportionately important source of the CHI’s phonological knowledge. Two exceptions occurred, however. First—with regard to lexical status—both the CHI and CNH showed significantly greater phonological priming from the nonwords than words, a pattern consistent with the prediction that children are more aware of phonetics-phonology content for nonwords. This overall pattern of similarity between the groups was qualified by the finding that CHI showed more nearly equal priming by the high- versus low-fidelity nonwords than the CNH; in other words, the CHI were less affected by the fidelity of the auditory input for nonwords. Second, auditory word recognition—but not degree of HI or age—uniquely influenced phonological priming by the AV nonwords.

Conclusions:

With minor exceptions, phonological priming in CHI and CNH showed more similarities than differences. Importantly, this research documented that the addition of visual speech significantly increased phonological priming in both groups. Clinically these data support intervention programs that view visual speech as a powerful asset for developing spoken language in CHI.

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