The overarching goal of the proposed research is to provide much-needed evidence forthe impact of hearing loss on speech communication in children whose dominant language is Spanish (SL2). Due to their language background, even SL2 listeners with normal hearing are known to face more challenges than native listeners in adverse listening conditions. However, if they are considered proficient in English, typically-developing non-native children with normal hearing receive no accommodations in schools. The intervention services offered to non-native children with hearing loss are identical to those for their native peers, even though little is known about the impact of hearing loss on speech communication for any non-native population.
The Specific Aims i n the proposed research project are to establish the bases for speech perception in SL2 listeners with normal hearing (Aim 1) and hearing loss (Aim 2). By comparing the speech-perception ability in adult and child native English listeners and SL2 listeners with and without hearing loss, studies under each aim will evaluate the individual and conspiring influences of listeners'language background, hearing status, and age on phoneme perception in commonly encountered challenging listening environments. Using speech materials varying in the amount of contextual cues, the role of top-down and bottom-up processing will be examined. Data will be analyzed using a new approach that specifically quantifies the influence of above factors on confusion patterns for consonants. The data obtained as part of this proposed research will serve as a basis to determine whether poor speech perception in SL2 listeners is due to language background or to hearing loss. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on evaluation processes, academic outcomes, and cost effectiveness of services offered to non-English-speaking children under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and help them succeed academically and economically. This significant aspect of the proposed research is also consistent with the objective under """"""""Hearing and Other Sensory or Communication Disorders"""""""" in Healthy People 2020.

Public Health Relevance

Impaired communication abilities can limit success in school or on the job. The results of the proposed research will provide evidence for the difficulties non-native listeners with hearing loss face under adverse listening conditions. This new knowledge will have a positive impact on evaluation processes, academic outcomes, and cost effectiveness of services offered to children whose dominant language is not English.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
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