Effects of semantic and acoustic context on nonword detection in children with hearing loss

Andrea Pittman, Brittany C. Schuett

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Scopus citations


    PURPOSE:: Children with hearing loss (HL) are known to have smaller receptive vocabularies than children with normal hearing (NH). This may be due, in part, of their reduced exposure to new words and their slower rate of word learning. A necessary prerequisite to lexical development is the detection of new words in conversation. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of HL on children's ability to detect the presence of nonwords within sentences that varied in semantic and acoustic context. METHODS:: Twenty-nine children with NH and 16 children with HL between the ages of 7 and 13 years participated. The children listened to short sentences and reported the number of nonwords detected, ranging from zero to two nonwords, in each sentence. The structure of the sentences was either meaningful or nonsensical to the children to reveal the effects of semantic context. The effects of acoustic context were revealed by presenting the sentences in quiet, steady-state noise, and in multi-talker babble. RESULTS:: Significant effects of age (older > younger), hearing (NH > HL), and listening condition (quiet > noise and babble) were observed. Also, nonword detection was better for semantically meaningful sentences than for nonsense sentences. Error analyses revealed that the children with NH tended to underestimate the number of nonwords in meaningful sentences but not in nonsense sentences. The children with HL, however, were more likely to underestimate the number of nonwords than were the children with NH for both meaningful and nonsense sentences. These error patterns were observed in each listening condition. CONCLUSIONS:: Error patterns suggest that children with HL apply strong repair strategies during speech perception, which may limit their opportunities to learn new words.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)213-220
    Number of pages8
    JournalEar and hearing
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Mar 2013

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Otorhinolaryngology
    • Speech and Hearing


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