How do children with cochlear implants hear speech?
The Deafness Research UK PhD studentship scheme is designed to encourage new and highly qualified graduates to embark on a career in deafness, hearing or tinnitus research in the UK, see more at http://www.deafnessresearch.org.uk/5301/types-of-award/phd-studentship-scheme.htmlThis project, to be supervised by Dr Andrew Faulkner at UCL and Dr Debi Vickers at the UCL Ear Institute, will set out to see if those children with implants who are doing well at speech and language development are doing so because they can distinguish differences in pitch better or because they are adapting in other ways.
The findings from this project will have important implications for the design and fit of cochlear implants and also for the design of speech and language training programmes. Ultimately, it is hoped that research from this project will lead to better outcomes for children with cochlear implants.
Deafness Research UK PhD studentship scheme
An important part of understanding speech is to be able to hear changes in pitch. Speech is a complex mix of different sounds and we rely on our inner ear to be able to distinguish between these in order to understand language. Changes in pitch give us clues for example to whether the speaker is finishing or continuing talking, whether a word is being emphasised and the speakers emotional meaning. However, for most typical sounds, the cochlear implant is unable to distinguish these changes in pitch making it difficult to pick up these important cues to understanding language.
As increasing number of young children are fitted with cochlear implants prior to language development, researchers are now finding that often these children are much better at understanding speech and language than adult implant users. It is thought that children implanted early with only the input from the cochlear implant are developing speech and language processing that is less dependent on pitch than hearing children.