“In pursuit of a career in speech-language pathology, it has been a pleasure to attend the University of Florida for my undergraduate education. This immersion into communication sciences and disorders led me to UF’s Speech Development Lab, where I have conducted research since August 2018. Within this time, I have also enjoyed opportunities as Sponsorship Chair of Hearoes for Hearing and as a summer camp coordinator for children with language disorders. I will be beginning my graduate studies at Florida State University in the Fall of 2020, where I look forward to serving the needs of multicultural youth with developmental and intellectual disabilities.”
Early, Temporary Auditory Deprivation has Long-Term Consequences on Hearing and Language
Joanna H. Lowenstein, Ph.D.
Susan Nittrouer, Ph.D.
Problem Statement: Otitis media with effusion (OME) is a condition in which fluid remains in the middle-ear cavity following acute infection, causing mild hearing loss. We hypothesized those losses affect the development of auditory temporal processing, which has been proposed to underlie language acquisition. This study tested three hypotheses: (1) Temporal processing develops across childhood. (2) Young children with histories of OME are delayed in developing mature temporal processing abilities. (3) That delay in auditory processing puts these children at risk for deficits in language learning.
Participants: To address the first hypothesis 20 adults, 10 children 8- to 10-years-old, and 19 children 5- to 7-years-old participated; none had significant histories of OME. To address the second and third hypotheses, 11 children ages 5- to 7-years-old with significant OME histories were tested and outcomes compared to the 19 children from the first analysis.
Methods: Broadband noises that varied in modulation depth were presented to listeners in separate trials with different frequencies of modulation: 4, 16, 64, 256, and 512 Hz. The listener was instructed to select the interval with the modulated noise in a three-interval, forced-choice task. A two-down, one-up adaptive procedure found the listener’s threshold for 70.7% correct scores. Vocabulary was measured using the Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test.
Phonological sensitivity was measured using the Final Consonant Choice and the Initial Consonant Choice tasks.
Results: A significant effect of modulation rate was found for all groups, with detection thresholds becoming poorer as modulation rate increased. A significant age effect was also evident, as 5- to 7-year-olds had higher (poorer) thresholds for temporal modulation compared to older children and adults. Although not statistically significant, small differences were seen for younger children with histories of chronic OME, who showed poorer detection thresholds and vocabulary scores compared to control subjects. Thresholds at the lowest modulation rate correlated with language measures for the youngest children.
Conclusions: Temporal processing skills develop across childhood, and early auditory deprivation may interfere with that development, affecting language learning. Further investigation is warranted using a prospective study that can evaluate the effects of OME in young children closer to the period of time in which repeated episodes occur.