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Psycholinguist. Researcher. Teacher
According to traditional accounts of human speech perception, cochlear implants should not work for anyone, adult or child. The fact that deaf listeners can understand speech through these devices has forced language scientists to return to the drawing board to draft new models of how we understand speech. Where deaf children are concerned, implants have moved their potential for language and literacy into the typical range, but just barely. New models of language acquisition must accommodate the kinds of success seen for these children, and address the challenge of how to further enhance their skills. This talk will describe why it is such a paradox that human listeners can learn to understand the signals received through cochlear implants, how that very fact forces us to reconsider our existing models of speech perception, and what this means for approaches to teaching spoken language to deaf children. These outcomes have broad significance, extending to theories of language deficits in children with normal hearing (including dyslexia) and machine learning of language.
Susan Nittrouer began tutoring young deaf children in 1972 as a college student at West Chester University, 35 miles outside of Philadelphia. She received a Master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 1975, and taught deaf children for five years. In 1980 she returned to university to pursue a Ph.D. degree, and received it in 1985 from the City University of New York. Following a post doctoral fellowship at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, Connecticut, she began her research career investigating how children learn to recognize speech. Currently she is Professor and Director of Research in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery at The Ohio State University and heads the Speech Development Laboratory.