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UC Research Differences Between Speech of Hearing Impaired

Research to find out why some children with hearing problems speak better than others

July 8, 2013

An American expert visiting the University of Canterbury (UC) is researching why some children with hearing problems learn to speak better much more quickly than others after receiving hearing implants.

Professor Barbara Davis is an Erskine visitor from the University of Texas. The Erskine fellowship programme was established in 1963 following a generous bequest by former distinguished UC student John Erskine.

Professor Davis says implants help people with hearing difficulties to hear better and speak more correctly.

``I am studying emergence of speech production abilities as it relates to understanding individual differences in children's response to their implants,’’ Professor Davis says.

``Some children develop understandable speech very quickly and others have a protracted course of development and may never develop speech that is easy to understand for others.

``I am looking at the rate of speech improvement in young children who receive implants. Then we can identify important factors that may be associated with good and not such good outcomes related to speech production development.  

``I am also testing children to find out if other factors such as their general language abilities may relate to their success at achieving understandable speech.

``I am interested in what type of environmental factors may be related to predicting children who will profit easily from the cochlear implant in developing spoken speech and language abilities relative to those who need long-term intervention to develop adequate speech and language abilities.

``My work at the University of Texas at Austin also involves colleagues who study brain responses to sound, as well as early language acquisition more generally,’’ Professor Davis says.

The National Foundation for the Deaf says by 2050 one in four New Zealanders will suffer from hearing loss, compared to one in six in 2005.

The foundation estimates hearing loss is costing the country $2.83 billion, or 1.4 per cent of GDP. A significant amount of hearing loss, 37 per cent, is due to excessive noise exposure which is preventable.


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