Difficulties in auditory and phonological processing affect semantic processing in speech comprehension for deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) children. However, little is known about brain responses related to semantic processing in this group. We investigated event-related potentials (ERPs) in DHH children with cochlear implants (CIs) and/or hearing aids (HAs), and in normally hearing controls (NH). We used a semantic priming task with spoken word primes followed by picture targets. In both DHH children and controls, cortical response differences between matching and mismatching targets revealed a typical N400 effect associated with semantic processing. Children with CI had the largest mismatch response despite poor semantic abilities overall; Children with CI also had the largest ERP differentiation between mismatch types, with small effects in within-category mismatch trials (target from same category as prime) and large effects in between-category mismatch trials (where target is from a different category than prime), compared to matching trials. Children with NH and HA had similar responses to both mismatch types. While the large and differentiated ERP responses in the CI group were unexpected and should be interpreted with caution, the results could reflect less precision in semantic processing among children with CI, or a stronger reliance on predictive processing.
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- cochlear implants
- hearing aids
- N400 evoked potential