Emotional Communication in Children with Cochlear Implants

Jan 26, 2022 | House Institute Foundation, Research

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John Galvin, PhD and co-principal investigator Monita Chatterjee, PhD, Director of the Auditory Prostheses and Perception Laboratory at Boys Town National Research Hospital, has been awarded a development grant for a 1-year study on vocal emotion communication in children with cochlear implants.

Emotional communication is a cornerstone of human interaction. Emotional communication is vital to development; children learn to understand vocal emotion well before they understand speech.  

However, for more than 350,000 cochlear implant patients worldwide, auditory emotion perception is limited. The cochlear implant can only convey limited voice pitch information (the major cue for auditory emotion perception). Poor emotional communication has been shown to negatively impact adult cochlear implant patients’ quality of life and may increase social isolation. For children with cochlear implants, poor emotional communication may limit speech and social development. Despite the importance of emotional communication, spoken emotion perception and production are not part of clinical assessment and rehabilitation for cochlear implant patients. 

This research aims to better understand factors that limit spoken emotion perception and production in children with cochlear implants. The study will explore the effects of early implantation and access to early acoustic hearing on emotional communication in children. A number of innovative approaches will be used to better understand emotional communication in children with cochlear implants, including measuring perception and production of “natural” emotional speech (as opposed to lab-based, scripted speech), characterizing children’s utilization of acoustic cues to emotion (e.g., voice pitch, duration, intensity), and exploring the links between emotion perception and production. Findings from this study may help to guide new technology to improve pitch perception in cochlear implants as well as highlight the importance of emotional communication for rehabilitation programs.  

HIF funds investigator-initiated research studies that demonstrate a potential to serve as a foundation for future high-impact research studies. The grant-making process emulates the rigor of NIH funding through external review. HIF-funded studies are vetted for their contribution to science and innovation. 


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