The role of statistical learning in understanding and treating spoken language outcomes in deaf children with cochlear implants

Joanne A. Deocampo, Gretchen N.L. Smith, William G. Kronenberger, David B. Pisoni, Christopher M. Conway

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Purpose: Statistical learning—the ability to learn patterns in environmental input—is increasingly recognized as a foundational mechanism necessary for the successful acquisition of spoken language. Spoken language is a complex, serially presented signal that contains embedded statistical relations among linguistic units, such as phonemes, morphemes, and words, which represent the phonotactic and syntactic rules of language. In this review article, we first review recent work that demonstrates that, in typical language development, individuals who display better nonlinguistic statistical learning abilities also show better performance on different measures of language. We next review research findings that suggest that children who are deaf and use cochlear implants may have difficulties learning sequential input patterns, possibly due to auditory and/or linguistic deprivation early in development, and that the children who show better sequence learning abilities also display improved spoken language outcomes. Finally, we present recent findings suggesting that it may be possible to improve core statistical learning abilities with specialized training and interventions and that such improvements can potentially impact and facilitate the acquisition and processing of spoken language. Method: We conducted a literature search through various online databases including PsychINFO and PubMed, as well as including relevant review articles gleaned from the reference sections of other review articles used in this review. Search terms included various combinations of the following: sequential learning, sequence learning, statistical learning, sequence processing, procedural learning, procedural memory, implicit learning, language, computerized training, working memory training, statistical learning training, deaf, deafness, hearing impairment, hearing impaired, DHH, hard of hearing, cochlear implant(s), hearing aid(s), and auditory deprivation. To keep this review concise and clear, we limited inclusion to the foundational and most recent (2005–2018) relevant studies that explicitly included research or theoretical perspectives on statistical or sequential learning. We here summarize and synthesize the most recent and relevant literature to understanding and treating language delays in children using cochlear implants through the lens of statistical learning. Conclusions: We suggest that understanding how statistical learning contributes to spoken language development is important for understanding some of the difficulties that children who are deaf and use cochlear implants might face and argue that it may be beneficial to develop novel language interventions that focus specifically on improving core foundational statistical learning skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-739
Number of pages17
JournalLanguage, speech, and hearing services in schools
Issue number3S
StatePublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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