Predictors of Early Reading Skill in 5-Year-Old Children With Hearing Loss Who Use Spoken Language
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This research investigated the concurrent association between early reading skills and phonological awareness ( PA ), print knowledge, language, cognitive, and demographic variables in 101 five-year-old children with prelingual hearing losses ranging from mild to profound who communicated primarily via spoken language. All participants were fitted with hearing aids ( n = 71) or cochlear implants ( n = 30). The participants completed standardized assessments of PA , receptive vocabulary, letter knowledge, word and nonword reading, passage comprehension, math reasoning, and nonverbal cognitive ability. Multiple regressions revealed that PA (assessed using judgments of similarity based on words’ initial or final sounds) made a significant, independent contribution to children ’ s early reading ability (for both letters and words/nonwords) after controlling for variation in receptive vocabulary, nonverbal cognitive ability, and a range of demographic variables, including gender, degree of hearing loss, communication mode, type of sensory device, age at fitting of sensory devices, and level of maternal education. Importantly, the relationship between PA and reading was specific to reading and did not generalize to another academic ability, math reasoning. Additional multiple regressions showed that letter knowledge (names or sounds) was superior in children whose mothers had undertaken postsecondary education and that better receptive vocabulary was associated with less severe hearing loss, use of a cochlear implant, and earlier age at implant switch-on. Earlier fitting of hearing aids or cochlear implants was not, however, significantly associated with better PA or reading outcomes in this cohort of children, most of whom were fitted with sensory devices before 3 years of age.