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Baby talk: Infants have much to say if adults will only listen

A baby's first sounds, other than crying, may baffle parents. Is that soft "coo" the sound of contentment? Boredom? Nothing more than a reflex?

Little is known about baby's talk and just as little is known about how babies perceive and process words and sounds from adults and the world around them. It is through understanding how infants and toddlers develop life-long language skills that researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine hope to help deaf infants with cochlear implants understand the audible world around them.

The Infant Language Lab at the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children is studying language development of hearing infants and toddlers to establish a yardstick for toddlers who have received cochlear implants.

Among the answers the IU otolaryngology researchers seek: What do normal hearing babies actually comprehend? Can a child with a cochlear implant discriminate sound in the same manner as normal hearing infants? How do infants learn to process what they hear in relation to what they see?

With answers to these questions, researchers can track the progress of infants who use cochlear implants and provide speech therapists a means to assess the progress of individual infants and their language perception.

"Working with infants and toddlers presents unique challenges," said Derek M. Houston, Ph.D., Infant Language Lab director and assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. "Progress has been made in developing techniques to evaluate language perception in children over the age of two. Measuring these skills in infants too young to follow instruction requires the development of innovative testing techniques."

Dr. Houston and his colleague Tonya R. Bergeson, Ph.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology and co-director of the Infant Language Lab, are developing new techniques for evaluating language perception in an age group where "goo-ing" and "ga-ing" are intense co
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Contact: Mary Hardin
mhardin@iupui.edu
317-274-7722
Indiana University
11-Jan-2005


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