Identification and Comprehension of Narrow Focus by Arabic-Speaking Adolescents With Moderate-to-Profound Hearing Loss

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Abstract

Purpose: Processing narrow focus (NF), the stressed word in the sentence, includes both the perceptual ability to identify the stressed word in the sentence and the pragmatic–semantic ability to comprehend the nonexplicit linguistic message. NF and its underlying meaning can be conveyed only via the auditory modality. Therefore, NF can be considered as a measure for assessing the efficacy of the hearing aid (HA) and cochlear implants (CIs) for acquiring nonexplicit language skills. The purpose of this study was to assess identification and comprehension of NF by HA and CI users who are native speakers of Arabic and to associate NF outcomes with speech perception and cognitive and linguistic abilities. Method: A total of 46 adolescents (age range: 11;2–18;8) participated: 18 with moderate-to-severe hearing loss who used HAs, 10 with severe-to-profound hearing loss who used CIs, and 18 with typical hearing (TH). Test materials included the Arabic Narrow Focus Test (ANFT), which includes three subtests assessing identification (ANFT1), comprehension of NF in simple four-word sentences (ANFT2), and longer sentences with a construction list at the clause or noun phrase level (ANFT3). In addition, speech perception, vocabulary, and working memory were assessed. Results: All the participants successfully identified the word carrying NF, with no significant difference between the groups. Comprehension of NF in ANFT2 and ANFT3 was reduced for HA and CI users compared with TH peers, and speech perception, hearing status, and memory for digits predicted the variability in the overall results of ANFT1, ANFT2, and ANFT3, respectively. Conclusions: Arabic speakers who used HAs or CIs were able to identify NF successfully, suggesting that the acoustic cues were perceptually available to them. However, HA and CI users had considerable difficulty in understanding NF. Different factors may contribute to this difficulty, including the memory load during the task as well as pragmatic-linguistic knowledge on the possible meanings of NF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2029-2046
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Volume65
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2022

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