J Am Acad Audiol 2017; 28(10): 901-912
DOI: 10.3766/jaaa.16105
American Academy of Audiology. All rights reserved. (2017) American Academy of Audiology

Segmental and Suprasegmental Perception in Children Using Hearing Aids

Kaitlyn A. Wenrich
Lisa S. Davidson
Rosalie M. Uchanski
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Publication History

Publication Date:
06 August 2020 (online)

Background: Suprasegmental perception (perception of stress, intonation, “how something is said” and “who says it”) and segmental speech perception (perception of individual phonemes or perception of “what is said”) are perceptual abilities that provide the foundation for the development of spoken language and effective communication. While there are numerous studies examining segmental perception in children with hearing aids (HAs), there are far fewer studies examining suprasegmental perception, especially for children with greater degrees of residual hearing. Examining the relation between acoustic hearing thresholds, and both segmental and suprasegmental perception for children with HAs, may ultimately enable better device recommendations (bilateral HAs, bimodal devices [one CI and one HA in opposite ears], bilateral CIs) for a particular degree of residual hearing. Examining both types of speech perception is important because segmental and suprasegmental cues are affected differentially by the type of hearing device(s) used (i.e., cochlear implant [CI] and/or HA). Additionally, suprathreshold measures, such as frequency resolution ability, may partially predict benefit from amplification and may assist audiologists in making hearing device recommendations.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between audibility (via hearing thresholds and speech intelligibility indices), and segmental and suprasegmental speech perception for children with HAs. A secondary goal is to explore the relationships among frequency resolution ability (via spectral modulation detection [SMD] measures), segmental and suprasegmental speech perception, and receptive language in these same children.

Research Design: A prospective cross-sectional design.

Study Sample: Twenty-three children, ages 4 yr 11 mo to 11 yr 11 mo, participated in the study. Participants were recruited from pediatric clinic populations, oral schools for the deaf, and mainstream schools.

Data Collection and Analysis: Audiological history and hearing device information were collected from participants and their families. Segmental and suprasegmental speech perception, SMD, and receptive vocabulary skills were assessed. Correlations were calculated to examine the significance (p < 0.05) of relations between audibility and outcome measures.

Results: Measures of audibility and segmental speech perception are not significantly correlated, while low-frequency pure-tone average (unaided) is significantly correlated with suprasegmental speech perception. SMD is significantly correlated with all measures (measures of audibility, segmental and suprasegmental perception and vocabulary). Lastly, although age is not significantly correlated with measures of audibility, it is significantly correlated with all other outcome measures.

Conclusions: The absence of a significant correlation between audibility and segmental speech perception might be attributed to overall audibility being maximized through well-fit HAs. The significant correlation between low-frequency unaided audibility and suprasegmental measures is likely due to the strong, predominantly low-frequency nature of suprasegmental acoustic properties. Frequency resolution ability, via SMD performance, is significantly correlated with all outcomes and requires further investigation; its significant correlation with vocabulary suggests that linguistic ability may be partially related to frequency resolution ability. Last, all of the outcome measures are significantly correlated with age, suggestive of developmental effects.