08 July 2022
Comparing the semantic networks of children with cochlear implants and children with typical hearing: Effects of length of language access
Purpose: Kenett et al. (2013) report that the sematic networks, measured by using an oral semantic fluency task, of children with cochlear implants (CI) are less structured compared to the sematic networks of children with typical hearing (TH). This study aims to evaluate if such differences are only evident if children with CI are compared to children with TH matched on chronological age, or also if they are compared to children with TH matched on hearing age. Method: The performance of a group of children with CI on a verbal fluency task was compared to the performance of a group of chronological-age matched children with TH. Subsequently, computational network analysis was used to compare the semantic network structure of the groups. The same procedure was applied to compare a group of children with CI to a group of hearing-age matched children with TH. Results: The children with CI perform on the same level on an oral semantic verbal fluency task as the children with TH matched on hearing age. There are significant differences in terms of the structure of the semantic network between the groups. The magnitude of these differences is very small and they are non-significant for a proportion of nodes included in the bootstrap analysis. This indicates that there is no true difference between the networks. Hearing age, but not age at implantation was found to be significantly positively correlated with semantic verbal fluency performance for the children with CI. Conclusions: The results from the current study indicate that length of exposure to the tested language is an important factor for the structure of the semantic network and the performance on a semantic verbal fluency task for children with CI. Further studies are needed to explore the role of the accessibility of the language input for the development of semantic networks of children with CI.