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XR1.3 Hearing Loss and Language In Children


This project theme is investigating the early precursors of linguistic development in infants and children that includes:

  • The brain functions that underlie these abilities;
  • The auditory skills on which they rely; and
  • How the brain reacts to and uses input supplied by hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Studies employing imaging and electrophysiology will provide a comprehensive analysis of how connectivity in the brain occurs in children with normal versus delayed language, as well as comparisons in children from non-tonal (e.g. English) and tonal language backgrounds (e.g. Mandarin Chinese), the latter spoken by one-third of the world’s population.

Using specialised facilities at the MARCS Baby Lab (The University of Western Sydney) and Macquarie University, longitudinal and cross-sectional studies will identify critical skills to be targeted in early intervention.

Based on these findings, subjective (e.g. parent reports on infant vocal production) and objective (e.g. electrophysiological responses) methods for assessing and predicting future speech perception and language abilities in infants will be developed, so that those children most at need of alternative devices or additional intervention will receive them at the earliest time. A key outcome is likely to be a tablet-based Infant Vocal Production Monitor, giving clinicians a portable and/or on-line assessment tool.

Additionally, this project will continue the Longitudinal Outcomes of Children with Hearing Impairment (LOCHI) study – a world-first study that is systematically following a cohort of over 400 hearing-impaired children from first identification of a hearing deficit shortly after birth through to adulthood. A new cohort of children with unilateral hearing loss will be added to identify factors affecting their outcomes. To date, five-year data has confirmed the advantages of early CI fitting, as well as identifying effects of hearing loss on phonological awareness as a key challenge.

XR1.3.1 Longitudinal Outcomes of Children and Neuroimaging Studies

This project will explore how the speech, language and literacy abilities associated with hearing change over time and what brain mechanisms underlie deficits in these areas.

It is comprised of the three sub-projects listed below:

XR1.3.1a Longitudinal Outcomes of Children with Hearing Impairment (LOCHI)

Project Leader: Dr Teresa Ching

XR1.3.1c Child Language Imaging Study

This project will use magnetic resonance imaging to examine white matter connectivity of speech and language tracts in children with hearing loss.

Project Leader: Angela Morgan

XR1.3.2 Seeds Of Language Development

This project will examine the factors that influence language development in infants and children with hearing loss and consider how those likely to develop poor language skills can be diagnosed earlier in life.

It is comprised of the three sub-projects listed below:

XR1.3.2a Early Auditory Speech Discrimination As Predictor Of Language Of Hearing Impaired Infants

This Project is determining the relationship between early speech sound detection and current language ability of children with hearing loss.  It is also investigating the relationship between early objective and behavioral measures of auditory discrimination, and subsequent language development in a new cohort.

Project Leader: Dr Teresa Ching

XR1.3.2b Development Of Hearing Impaired Infants Speech Perception and Vocalisation Over The First Three Years Of Life

This project is investigating the early precursors of linguistic development by assessing aspects of language acquisition in children. It aims of to identify the aspects of language acquisition that predict later language delay associated with hearing loss to ensure intervention occurs at the earliest possible time, and to inform possible interventions targeted at optimising the early-linguistic environment of these children to promote language development.

Project Leader: Prof. Denis Burnham

XR1.3.2c Perception and Production Of Grammatical Morphemes By Children With Hearing Aids And/Or Cochlear Implants

This project is assessing hearing impaired children’s early language development and will provide new data on the production and perception of grammatical morphemes, and tone by children with hearing impairments and further our knowledge about early language development in children with hearing loss.

Project Leaders: Prof. Katherine Demuth, Dr Nan Xu Rattanasone

XR1.3.3 Children With Unilateral Hearing Loss

This project will provide a greater understanding to help determine if the fitting of hearing devices improves the outcomes of children with unilateral hearing loss.

Project Leader: Dr Teresa Ching


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