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Vowel perception in children with cochlear implant (Fagniart et al., 2024)

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posted on 2024-03-08, 20:11 authored by Sophie Fagniart, Véronique Delvaux, Bernard Harmegnies, Anne Huberlant, Kathy Huet, Myriam Piccaluga, Isabelle Watterman, Brigitte Charlier

Purpose: The present study investigates the perception of vowel nasality in French-speaking children with cochlear implants (CIs; CI group) and children with typical hearing (TH; TH group) aged 4–12 years. By investigating the vocalic nasality feature in French, the study aims to document more broadly the effects of the acoustic limitations of CI in processing segments characterized by acoustic cues that require optimal spectral resolution. The impact of various factors related to children’s characteristics, such as chronological/auditory age, age of implantation, and exposure to cued speech, has been studied on performance, and the acoustic characteristics of the stimuli in perceptual tasks have also been investigated.

Method: Identification and discrimination tasks involving French nasal and oral vowels were administered to two groups of children: 13 children with CIs (CI group) and 25 children with TH (TH group) divided into three age groups (4–6 years, 7–9 years, and 10–12 years). French nasal vowels were paired with their oral phonological counterpart (phonological pairing) as well as to the closest oral vowel in terms of phonetic proximity (phonetic pairing). Post hoc acoustic analyses of the stimuli were linked to the performance in perception.

Results: The results indicate an effect of the auditory status on the performance in the two tasks, with the CI group performing at a lower level than the TH group. However, the scores of the children in the CI group are well above chance level, exceeding 80%. The most common errors in identification were substitutions between nasal vowels and phonetically close oral vowels as well as confusions between the phoneme /u/ and other oral vowels. Phonetic pairs showed lower discrimination performance in the CI group with great variability in the results. Age effects were observed only in TH children for nasal vowel identification, whereas in children with CIs, a positive impact of cued speech practice and early implantation was found. Differential links between performance and acoustic characteristics were found within our groups, suggesting that in children with CIs, selective use of certain acoustic features, presumed to be better transmitted by the implant, leads to better perceptual performance.

Conclusions: The study’s results reveal specific challenges in children with CIs when processing segments characterized by fine spectral resolution cues. However, the CI children in our study appear to effectively compensate for these difficulties by utilizing various acoustic cues assumed to be well transmitted by the implant, such as cues related to the temporal resolution of stimuli.

Supplemental Material S1. Details of the best-fitted binomial generalized linear models for the identification task, with associated power analysis for the fixed effects (powersim function of the SIMR package).

Supplemental Material S2. Details of the best-fitted binomial generalized linear models for the identification task, including associated power analyses (calculated using the powersim function in the SIMR package).

Fagniart, S., Delvaux, V., Harmegnies, B., Huberlant, A., Huet, K., Piccaluga, M., Watterman, I., & Charlier, B. (2024). Nasal/oral vowel perception in French-speaking children with cochlear implants and children with typical hearing. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 67(4), 1243–1267. 10.1044/2024_JSLHR-23-00274