OBJECTIVES: Research suggests that the speech perception of children using bone conduction amplification improves if the device is coupled to an implanted abutment rather than to a softband. The purpose of the present study was to determine if the benefit of direct stimulation via an abutment is limited to small improvements in speech perception or if similar or greater benefits occur for other auditory tasks important for learning and communication. DESIGN: Fourteen children (7 to 15 years of age) with bilateral conductive and three children with unilateral conductive or sensorineural hearing loss were enrolled. Each child completed four tasks while using a bone conduction device coupled to an implanted abutment and with the device coupled to a softband. The two devices were worn at the same time and activated one at a time for testing. The children completed four tasks under each coupling condition: (a) a traditional word recognition task, (b) an auditory lexical decision task in which the children repeated aloud, and indicated the category of, real and nonsense words, (c) a nonsense-word detection task which required the children to identify nonsense words within short sentences, and (d) a rapid word learning task in which the children learned to associate nonsense words with novel images. RESULTS: Regression analyses revealed that age, duration of device use, in-situ hearing thresholds, or device output did not account for a significant portion of the variability in performance for any of the four tasks. Repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed significant increases in word recognition with the abutment as well as significantly better performance for the lexical decision and word learning tasks. The data indicated that the children with the poorest performance with the softband tended to benefit most with the abutment. Also, the younger children showed improved performance for more tasks with the abutment than the older children. No difference between coupling conditions was observed for nonsense-word detection. CONCLUSIONS: The improved recognition of familiar words, categorization and repetition of nonsense words, and speed of word learning with the abutment suggests that direct stimulation provides a higher-quality signal than indirect stimulation through a softband. Because these processes are important for vocabulary acquisition and language development, children may experience long-term benefits of direct stimulation for academic, social, and vocational purposes in addition to immediate improvement in communication.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Speech and Hearing