The perception of prosody and associated auditory cues in early-implanted children; the role of auditory working memory and musical activities

Torppa, R., Faulkner, A., Huotilainen, M., Järvikivi, J., Lipsanen, J., Laasonen, M. & Vainio, M. (2014)
International Journal of Audiology, 53, 182-191

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We studied prosodic perception in early-implanted children in relation to auditory discrimination, auditory working memory, and exposure to music. Word and sentence stress perception, discrimination of fundamental frequency (F0), intensity and duration, and forward digit span were measured twice over approximately 16 months. Musical activities were assessed by questionnaire. The participants were twenty-one early-implanted and normal-hearing (NH) children (age 4–13 years). As a result, children with cochlear implants (CIs) exposed to music performed better than others in stress perception and F0 discrimination. Only this subgroup of implanted children improved with age in word stress perception, intensity discrimination, and improved over time in digit span. Prosodic perception, F0 discrimination and forward digit span in implanted children exposed to music was equivalent to the NH group, but other implanted children performed more poorly. For children with CIs, word stress perception was linked to digit span and intensity discrimination: sentence stress perception was additionally linked to F0 discrimination.

Conclusions: Prosodic perception in children with CIs is linked to auditory working memory and aspects of auditory discrimination. Engagement in music was linked to better performance across a range of measures, suggesting that music is a valuable tool in the rehabilitation of implanted children.