On the robustness of vocal development: An examination of infants with moderate-to-severe hearing loss and additional risk factors


Purpose: Onset of canonical babbling by 10 months of age is surprisingly robust in infancy, suggesting that there must be deep biological forces that keep the development of this key vocal capability on course. This study further evaluated the robustness of canonical babbling and other aspects of prelinguistic vocal development. Method: Longitudinal observation was conducted on 4 infants who were at risk for abnormal vocal development because of bilateral moderate-to-severe sensorineural hearing loss and additional risk factors for developmental delay. Results: Two of the infants were delayed in the onset of canonical babbling and showed greater fluctuation in canonical babbling ratios following its onset than did typically developing infants. On the same measures, the remaining 2 infants were within normal limits, although their age of onset for canonical babbling was later than the mean for typically developing infants. Volubility was not notably different from typically developing infants. Differences from typically developing infants were, however, observed in proportions of various prelinguistic syllable types produced across time. Conclusion: Results provided further evidence of robustness of canonical babbling and indicated the need for a large parametric study evaluating effects of varying degrees of hearing loss and other risk factors on vocal development. © American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Publication Title

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research