Speech rate, rate-matching, and intelligibility in early-implanted cochlear implant users

Valerie Freeman, David Pisoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


An important speech-language outcome for deaf people with cochlear implants is speech intelligibility - how well their speech is understood by others, which also affects social functioning. Beyond simply uttering recognizable words, other speech-language skills may affect communicative competence, including rate-matching or converging toward interlocutors' speech rates. This initial report examines speech rate-matching and its relations to intelligibility in 91 prelingually deaf cochlear implant users and 93 typically hearing peers age 3 to 27 years. Live-voice spoken sentences were repeated and later transcribed by multiple hearing listeners. Speech intelligibility was calculated as proportions of words correctly transcribed. For speech rate-matching measures, speech rates (syllables/s) were normalized as percentages faster or slower than examiners' speech rates. Cochlear implant users had slower speech rates, less accurate and less consistent rate-matching, and poorer speech intelligibility than hearing peers. Among cochlear implant users, speech rate and rate-matching were correlated with intelligibility: faster talkers and better rate-matchers were more intelligible. Rate-matching and intelligibility improved during preschool, with cochlear implant users delayed by about a year compared to hearing peers. By school-age, rate-matching and intelligibility were good overall, but delays persisted for many cochlear implant users. Interventions targeting rate-matching skills are therefore warranted in speech-language therapy for this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1043-1054
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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