Previous research found a beneficial effect of augmentative signs (signs from a sign language used alongside speech) on spoken word learning by signing deaf and hard-ofhearing (DHH) children. The present study compared oral DHH children, and hearing children in a condition with babble noise in order to investigate whether prolonged experience with limited auditory access is required for a sign effect to occur. Nine- to 11-year-old children participated in a word learning task in which half of the words were presented with an augmentative sign. Non-signing DHH children (N = 19) were trained in normal sound, whereas a control group of hearing peers (N = 38) were trained in multi-speaker babble noise. The researchers also measured verbal short-term memory (STM). For the DHH children, there was a sign effect on speed of spoken word recognition, but not accuracy, and no interaction between the sign effect in reaction times and verbal STM. The hearing children showed no sign effect for either speed or accuracy. These results suggest that not necessarily sign language knowledge, but rather prolonged experience with limited auditory access is required for children to benefit from signs for spoken word learning regardless of children’s verbal STM.

Augmentative signs, children, deaf, hard-of-hearing, multimodal word learning,
First Language
Department of Psychology

van Berkel - van Hoof, L, Hermans, D., Knoors, H.E.T., & Verhoeven, L.T.W. (2020). Sign effects in spoken word learning by oral deaf and hard-of-hearing children, and by hearing children. First Language, 40(3), 300–325. doi:10.1177/0142723720921058