Rapid word-learning in normal-hearing and hearing-impaired children: Effects of age, receptive vocabulary, and high-frequency amplification

A. L. Pittman, D. E. Lewis, B. M. Hoover, P. G. Stelmachowicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: This study examined rapid word-learning in 5- to 14-year-old children with normal and impaired hearing. The effects of age and receptive vocabulary were examined as well as those of high-frequency amplification. Novel words were low-pass filtered at 4 kHz (typical of current amplification devices) and at 9 kHz. It was hypothesized that (1) the children with normal hearing would learn more words than the children with hearing loss, (2) word-learning would increase with age and receptive vocabulary for both groups, and (3) both groups would benefit from a broader frequency bandwidth. DESIGN: Sixty children with normal hearing and 37 children with moderate sensorineural hearing losses participated in this study. Each child viewed a 4-minute animated slideshow containing 8 nonsense words created using the 24 English consonant phonemes (3 consonants per word). Each word was repeated 3 times. Half of the 8 words were low-pass filtered at 4 kHz and half were filtered at 9 kHz. After viewing the story twice, each child was asked to identify the words from among pictures in the slide show. Before testing, a measure of current receptive vocabulary was obtained using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-III). RESULTS: The PPVT-III scores of the hearing-impaired children were consistently poorer than those of the normal-hearing children across the age range tested. A similar pattern of results was observed for word-learning in that the performance of the hearing-impaired children was significantly poorer than that of the normal-hearing children. Further analysis of the PPVT and word-learning scores suggested that although word-learning was reduced in the hearing-impaired children, their performance was consistent with their receptive vocabularies. Additionally, no correlation was found between overall performance and the age of identification, age of amplification, or years of amplification in the children with hearing loss. Results also revealed a small increase in performance for both groups in the extended bandwidth condition but the difference was not significant at the traditional p = 0.05 level. CONCLUSIONS: The ability to learn words rapidly appears to be poorer in children with hearing loss over a wide range of ages. These results coincide with the consistently poorer receptive vocabularies for these children. Neither the word-learning or receptive-vocabulary measures were related to the amplification histories of these children. Finally, providing an extended high-frequency bandwidth did not significantly improve rapid word-learning for either group with these stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-629
Number of pages11
JournalEar and hearing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Speech and Hearing


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