No AccessEditor's AwardJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing ResearchResearch Article22 Jan 2020

Parental Language Input to Children With Hearing Loss: Does It Matter in the End?


    Parental language input (PLI) has reliably been found to influence child language development for children at risk of language delay, but previous work has generally restricted observations to the preschool years. The current study examined whether PLI during the early years explains variability in the spoken language abilities of children with hearing loss at those young ages, as well as later in childhood.


    One hundred children participated: 34 with normal hearing, 24 with moderate losses who used hearing aids (HAs), and 42 with severe-to-profound losses who used cochlear implants (CIs). Mean socioeconomic status was middle class for all groups. Children with CIs generally received them early.


    Samples of parent–child interactions were analyzed to characterize PLI during the preschool years. Child language abilities (CLAs) were assessed at 48 months and 10 years of age.


    No differences were observed across groups in how parents interacted with their children. Nonetheless, strong differences across groups were observed in the effects of PLI on CLAs at 48 months of age: Children with normal hearing were largely resilient to their parents' language styles. Children with HAs were most influenced by the amount of PLI. Children with CIs were most influenced by PLI that evoked child language and modeled more complex versions. When potential influences of preschool PLI on CLAs at 10 years of age were examined, those effects at preschool were replicated. When mediation analyses were performed, however, it was found that the influences of preschool PLI on CLAs at 10 years of age were partially mediated by CLAs at preschool.


    PLI is critical to the long-term spoken language abilities of children with hearing loss, but the style of input that is most effective varies depending on the severity of risk for delay.


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