Childhood Hearing Impairment: Auditory and Linguistic Interactions During Multidimensional Speech Processing Children with mild-severe sensorineural hearing losses often use hearing aids and aural/oral language as their primary mode of communication, yet we know little about how speech is processed by these children. The purpose of this research was to investigate how the multidimensional information underlying accurate speech perception is processed by ... Research Article
Research Article  |   August 01, 1995
Childhood Hearing Impairment: Auditory and Linguistic Interactions During Multidimensional Speech Processing
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Susan Jerger
    Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Communicative Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
  • Randi Martin
    Department of Psychology, Rice University, Houston, TX
  • Deborah A. Pearson
    Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Texas, Medical School at Houston
  • Tho Dinh
    Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
  • Contact author: Susan Jerger, PhD, Audiology, Neurosensory NA200, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030–3498.
    Contact author: Susan Jerger, PhD, Audiology, Neurosensory NA200, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030–3498.×
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Hearing Disorders / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Hearing / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 1995
Childhood Hearing Impairment: Auditory and Linguistic Interactions During Multidimensional Speech Processing
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 1995, Vol. 38, 930-948. doi:10.1044/jshr.3804.930
History: Received April 6, 1994 , Accepted February 24, 1995
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 1995, Vol. 38, 930-948. doi:10.1044/jshr.3804.930
History: Received April 6, 1994; Accepted February 24, 1995

Children with mild-severe sensorineural hearing losses often use hearing aids and aural/oral language as their primary mode of communication, yet we know little about how speech is processed by these children. The purpose of this research was to investigate how the multidimensional information underlying accurate speech perception is processed by children with mild-severe hearing impairments. The processing of the auditory and linguistic dimensions of speech was assessed with a speeded selective-attention task (Garner, 1974a). Listeners were required to attend selectively to an auditory dimension (gender of the talker) and ignore a linguistic dimension (word) and vice versa. The hypothesis underlying the task is that performance for the target dimension will be unaffected by what is happening on the nontarget dimension if the dimensions are processed independently. On the other hand, if the dimensions are not processed independently, listeners will not be able to attend selectively and performance for the relevant dimension will be affected by what is happening on the irrelevant dimension (termed "Garner" interference). Both children with normal hearing (N=90) and children with hearing impairment (N=40) showed some degree of Garner interference, implying that the dimensions of speech are not processed independently by these children. However, relative to the children with normal hearing, the children with hearing impairment showed normal Garner interference when attending selectively to the word dimension (normally effective at ignoring talker-gender input) and reduced Garner interference when attending selectively to the talker-gender dimension (more effective at ignoring word input). This pattern of results implies that the auditory dimension has a normal strength-of-processing level that makes it normally distracting and that the linguistic dimension has an underdeveloped strength-of-processing level that makes it easier to ignore in children with hearing impairment.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported, in part, by Grant DC-00421 (Baylor College of Medicine) from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), Grant DC-00218 (Rice University) from NIDCD, and Grant MH-48212 (University of Texas Medical School at Houston) from the National Institute of Mental Health.
We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Dwight Davis (computer programming), Audrey Chun, Ernest Chavira, Shevon Desai, Rodolfo Elizondo, Ray Reynosa, Patricia Sanchez, and Elizabeth Wright (data collection), the supportive parents, audiologists, and principals/staff of our cooperating schools (subjects), and colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University (review), especially Dr. James R. Pomerantz. We appreciate the extensive cooperation of Elizabeth Albritton, Rebecca Blondeau, Sheryl Jorgensen, and Gayle Stout from the Houston School for Deaf Children; Connie Barrigan, Gillian Brown, Catherine van Eys, and Sandra Waters from the Houston Independent School District; Jean DuConge from Aldine Independent School District; Marta Hecocks from Katy Independent School District; Marilyn Kent from Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District and the Northwestern Harris County Cooperative for the Hearing Impaired; and Louise Loiselle from the Audiology Service of The Methodist Hospital. We thank Dr. Larry Humes, Indiana University, for pointing out the merit of subtracting simple reaction time from the experimental reaction-time measures, and Dr. Anu Sharma, Northwestern University, for her suggestions.
The presentation of this research benefited significantly from the thoughtful and insightful comments of three anonymous reviewers who are gratefully acknowledged.
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