The four purposes of this investigation were to assess whether children acquire intelligible speech following prolonged cochlear-implant experience and examine their speech error patterns, to examine how age at implantation influences speech acquisition, to assess how speech production and speech perception skills relate, and to determine whether cochlear implant recipients who formerly used simultaneous communication (speech and manually coded English) begin to use speech without sign to communicate. Twenty-eight prelinguistically deafened children who use a Nucleus cochlear implant were assigned to one of three age groups, according to age at implantation: 25 yrs (N= 12), 58 yrs (N= 9), and 815 yrs (N= 7). All subjects had worn a cochlear implant for at least 24 mos, and an average of 36 mos. All subjects used simultaneous communication at the time of implantation. Subjects performed both imitative and structured spontaneous sampling speech tasks. The results permit the following conclusions: (a) children who have used a cochlear implant for at least 2 yrs acquire some intelligible speech; (b) children who receive a cochlear implant before the age of 5 yrs appear to show greater benefit in their speech production skills than children who are older, at least after a minimum of 2 yrs of use; (c) children who recognize more speech while wearing their cochlear implants are likely to speak more intelligibly; and, (d) signing does not disappear from a child's communication mode following implantation.
KEY WORDS: cochlear implants, speech production, deaf children, aural rehabilitation, total communication
Submitted on March 1, 1994
Accepted on October 31, 1994
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