Hearing Loss

Current Projects

Emergent Literacy Skills of Bilingual Language Learners with Hearing Loss

Emily Lund, Krystal L. Werfel, and C. Melanie Schuele

Many children with hearing loss show delays in acquiring emergent literacy skills such as phonological and print awareness. These delays can profoundly impede conventional literacy development (word decoding, reading comprehension, written expression, spelling). In addition, the number of bilingual language learners with hearing loss has been steadily increasing. Current research does not define the impact of bilingualism on the emergent literacy skills of children with or without hearing loss. Limitations in the literature concerning the emergent reading skills of bilingual children do not allow investigators to predict whether bilingual language learning provides an advantage or disadvantage to bilingual children with hearing loss.

The long-term goal of this study is to evaluate the effects of Spanish-English bilingualism on emergent literacy skills in young children with hearing loss. An understanding of the relationship between bilingualism, hearing loss, and early literacy skills may inform intervention options within this population.

Changing Rapid Word Learning in Children with Cochlear Implants

Emily Lund

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effects of a novel-word identification and naming intervention on the fast-mapping skills of preschool children with cochlear implants. A single subject, multiple probe design across participants will be used to measure the impact of the naming intervention on children’s fast mapping skills. Participants will include preschool children with cochlear implants who have an expressive vocabulary of approximately 20 to 55 words. Intervention will consist of teaching children to identify and learn novel words within a set of familiar words. The probe measure, a fast-mapping task, will be collected intermittently during baseline, continuously during intervention and intermittently during maintenance. A single examiner will conduct the naming intervention for two 20-minute weekly sessions and assessment data will be collected weekly for 10 weeks. Maintenance assessment data will be collected 3 and 6 weeks after completion of the intervention.

Clinical implications: Preschool children with hearing loss demonstrate expressive and receptive vocabulary delays as compared to their peers with typical hearing. In addition, children with cochlear implants perform more poorly on fast-mapping tasks than hearing-age matched children without hearing loss. The proposed intervention may allow clinicians to improve the fast-mapping skills of children with cochlear implants. Improvement of children’s fast-mapping skills in the early stages of vocabulary development may, in turn, increase the expressive vocabulary growth of children with cochlear implants. 

Peer Interactions in Children with Hearing Loss

Krystal L. Werfel, Emily Lund, and Tiffany Woynaroski

The purpose of this study is to describe the peer interactions of children with hearing loss across different types of preschool classrooms. The social exchanges between children with hearing loss, their peers with normal hearing, and their peers with hearing loss will be observed and recorded in the natural classroom setting. In addition, the peer preferences of children with and without hearing loss will be examined and compared.
Explicit Phonemic Awareness Skills of Teachers of the Deaf

Krystal L. Werfel

Despite recent advances in amplification technology and subsequent improvements in speech perception outcomes, children with hearing loss continue to have impaired phonemic awareness and subsequent literacy skills. Teacher content knowledge predicts student outcomes in other academic areas but has not been evaluated specifically for deaf educators' phonemic awareness skills. We hypothesize that improving teachers' phonemic awareness skills may cause student literacy outcomes to improve. This study was a preliminary investigation of deaf educators' phonemic awareness skills as a first step toward pursuing this line of inquiry. Eighty deaf educators completed an online assessment of their skills on basic phonemic awareness tasks: (a) phoneme matching, (b) phoneme segmentation, and (c) phoneme isolation. Deaf educators did not score at ceiling. They scored highest on phoneme matching, lowest on phoneme isolation, and better on easy-to-segment words than hard-to-segment words. Performance of deaf educators was not predicted by communication mode, phonetics coursework, or education level. Deaf educators scored higher than other educators but lower than speech-language pathologists. Concerns are raised regarding deaf educators' ability to teach children to analyze sounds in words when their own phonemic awareness skills are limited.

Past Projects

Phonemic Awareness Training with Children with Hearing Loss

Krystal L. Werfel and C. Melanie Schuele

Some children with hearing loss have great difficulty in acquiring early language and literacy skills. Despite technological advances in amplification for children with hearing loss (e.g., cochlear implants), the average reading level for this population has not increased in the past several decades. Phonological processing deficits in children with hearing loss may contribute to poor reading outcomes. The purpose of this single subject study was to evaluate whether initial sound segmentation training increased initial sound segmentation ability in preschool children with hearing loss. Two preschool children with hearing loss participated in this multiple probe design single subject study. The children participated in individual intervention that taught initial sound segmentation (37-39 half-hour sessions). Assessment of children’s initial sound segmentation skill occurred at the beginning of each session. Results indicated that initial sound segmentation training increased children’s performance on the initial sound segmentation assessment measures in the children with hearing loss. The children exhibited some maintenance of skill when training ceased, but maintenance was not complete. Generalization to sounds not taught was generally not observed. Error analysis gave insight to children’s skill.
Phonological awareness training was associated with an increase in phonological awareness skill for these two children with hearing loss. Future research should explore the effectiveness of phonological awareness training for all children with hearing loss. In addition, future research should explore the effects of phonological awareness training on literacy outcomes for children with hearing loss.