Derek Houston, PhD, is a Cognitive Psychologist and Associate Professor of Otolaryngology at The Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In 2000, he constructed the world's first laboratory to assess speech perception in infants who receive cochlear implants. Since then, his work has investigated the effects of early auditory experience on speech perception, word learning, cognitive skills, and social interaction in deaf infants and toddlers. His work is funded by the NIH-NIDCD.
Cochlear implants give deaf learners access to sound but provide no information about what those sounds mean. Learning the meaning of spoken words begins with forming associations between the sound patterns of words and the objects, actions, and events that are experienced through all of the senses, especially vision. Accumulating evidence from my lab and others suggests that deaf learners have difficulty learning associations between the sound patterns of words and objects even after cochlear implantation. Moreover, this difficulty is not entirely due to limited speech perception abilities, suggesting that early auditory experience impacts auditory-visual associative learning. I will review factors we have found to contribute to difficulty learning word-object associations and discuss possibilities for improving deaf learners’ spoken word-learning skills after cochlear implantation.