A 4-year investigation into phonetic inventory development in young cochlear implant users.
Phonetic inventories of 9 children with profoundly impaired hearing who used the 22-electrode cochlear implant (Cochlear Limited) were monitored before implantation and during the first 4 years of implant use. All children were 5 years old or younger at the time of implant. Spontaneous speech samples were collected at regular intervals for each child and analyzed to investigate phone acquisition over the post-implant period. Acquisition was measured using two different criteria. The "targetless" criterion required the child to produce a phonetically recognizable sound spontaneously, and the "target" criterion required the child to produce the phone correctly at least 50% of the time in meaningful words. At 4 years post-implant, 40 out of 44 phones (91 %) had reached the targetless criterion, and 29 phones (66%) had reached the target criterion for 5 or more of the children. Over the time of the study 100% of monophthongs, 63% of diphthongs, and 54% of consonants reached the target criterion. The average time taken for a phone to progress from the targetless to target criterion was 15 months. Overall, the data suggest trends in the order of phone acquisition similar to those of normally hearing children, although the process of acquisition occurred at a slower rate.