Phonological Priming in Children with Hearing Loss: Effect of Speech Mode, Fidelity, and Lexical Status

Susan Jerger*, Nancy Tye-Murray, Markus F E Damian, Herve Abdi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
333 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives. Our research determined 1) how phonological priming of picture naming was affected by the mode (audiovisual [AV] vs auditory), fidelity (intact vs non-intact auditory onsets), and lexical status (words vs nonwords) of speech stimuli in children with prelingual sensorineural hearing impairment (CHI) vs. children with normal hearing (CNH); and 2) how the degree of hearing impairment (HI), auditory word recognition, and age influenced results in CHI. Our AV stimuli were not the traditional bimodal input but instead consisted of an intact consonant/rhyme in the visual track coupled to a non-intact onset/rhyme in the auditory track. Example stimuli for the word bag are: 1) AV: intact visual (b/ag) coupled to non-intact auditory (–b/ag) and 2) Auditory: static face coupled to the same non-intact auditory (–b/ag). Our question was whether the intact visual speech would “restore or fill-in” the non-intact auditory speech in which case performance for the same auditory stimulus would differ depending upon the presence/absence of visual speech.

Design. Participants were 62 CHI and 62 CNH whose ages yielded a group-mean and -distribution akin to that in the CHI group. Ages ranged from 4 to 14 years. All participants: 1) spoke English as a native language, 2) were able to successfully communicate aurally/orally, and 3) were not diagnosed or with disabilities other than HI and its accompanying verbal problems. The phonological priming of picture naming was assessed with the multi-modal picture word task.

Results. Both CHI and CNH showed greater phonological priming from high than low fidelity stimuli and from AV than auditory speech. These overall fidelity and mode effects did not differ in the CHI vs. CNH—thus these CHI appeared to have sufficiently well specified phonological onset representations to support priming, and visual speech did not appear to be a disproportionately important source of the CHI’s phonological knowledge. Two exceptions occurred, however. First—with regard to lexical status—both the CHI and CNH showed significantly greater phonological priming from the nonwords than words, a pattern consistent with the prediction that children are more aware of phonetics-phonology content for nonwords. This overall pattern of similarity between the groups was qualified by the finding that CHI showed more nearly equal priming by the high vs. low fidelity nonwords than the CNH; in other words, the CHI were less affected by the fidelity of the auditory input for nonwords. Second, auditory word recognition—but not degree of HI or age—uniquely influenced phonological priming by the nonwords presented AV.

Conclusions. With minor exceptions, phonological priming in CHI and CNH showed more similarities than differences. Importantly, we documented that the addition of visual speech significantly increased phonological priming in both groups. Clinically these data support intervention programs that view visual speech as a powerful asset for developing spoken language in CHI.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-633
Number of pages11
JournalEar and Hearing
Issue number6
Early online date19 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016

Structured keywords

  • Language
  • Cognitive Science


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