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DOI: 10.1101/2023.05.22.538554

Perception of Speech Turn Dynamics is preserved in Congenitally Deaf children with Cochlear Implants

C.Hidalgo S. Roman C. Zielinski S. Chen E. Truy D. Schon
Perceptual and speech production abilities of children with cochlear implants (CI) are usually tested by word and sentence repetition or naming tests. However, in their daily life they show very heterogeneous language skills. Here, we describe a way of increasing the ecological validity of language assessment, promoting the use of close to real-life listening situations. The setup consists in watching the audio-visual conversation of two individuals. Children's gaze-switches from one speaker to the other serve as a proxy of their prediction abilities. Moreover, to better understand the basis and the impact of anticipatory behaviour, we also measured children's ability to understand the dialogue content, their speech perception and memory skills as well as their rhythmic skills. Importantly, we compared children with CI performances with those of an age-matched group of children with NH. While children with CI revealed poorer speech perception and verbal working memory abilities than NH children, there was no difference in gaze anticipatory behaviour. Interestingly, in children with CI only, we found a significant correlation between dialogue comprehension, perceptive skills and gaze anticipatory behaviour. Our results confirm and extend to a conversational context previous findings showing an absence of predictive deficits in children with CI. The current design seems an interesting avenue to provide an accurate and objective estimate of anticipatory language behaviour in a rather ecological conversational context also with young children.