Language Differences in Children With Hearing Loss Elizabeth Walker investigates how access to spoken language affects children’s cognitive and linguistic processing. Foundational Questions
Foundational Questions  |   July 01, 2018
Language Differences in Children With Hearing Loss
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Hearing Disorders / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Foundational Questions
Foundational Questions   |   July 01, 2018
Language Differences in Children With Hearing Loss
The ASHA Leader, July 2018, Vol. 23, online only. doi:10.1044/
The ASHA Leader, July 2018, Vol. 23, online only. doi:10.1044/
Name: Elizabeth Walker, PhD, CCC-A/SLP
Title: Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Iowa
ASHFoundation Award History:
  • 2017 ASHA Research Conference Travel Grant

  • 2016 Clinical Research Grant ($75,000): “Investigating Links Between Non-Linguistic Learning Processes and Grammar Skills in Children With Cochlear Implants”

  • 2006 New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship

  • 2000 Graduate Student Scholarship

What is the focus of your research?
My research focuses on variations in access to sound in children who use hearing aids or cochlear implants. I am also interested in language, listening and cognitive development of these children. My students and I hypothesize that individual differences in cognitive-linguistic representations and processing result from variations in exposure to spoken language—so for some children with hearing loss, inconsistent auditory access may lead to inefficient processing and poorer outcomes. To assess children’s auditory, cognitive and linguistic skills, our lab uses a variety of behavioral and subjective measures, including declarative and procedural learning tests, standardized language measures, and clinical audiologic tests.
How did your award from the ASHFoundation lead to your current work?
I have received several awards from the ASHFoundation over the years, including a graduate student scholarship in 2000, a New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship in 2006 and, most recently, a Clinical Research Grant in 2016. Each award has had a positive, lasting impact on my career. The graduate student scholarship allowed me to pursue a dual master’s degree in speech-language pathology and audiology. After I started my PhD, the New Century award enabled me to start work on my dissertation, which examined declarative learning in children with hearing loss.
With the Clinical Research Grant, I expanded the scope of my research to examine procedural memory in children, specifically nonverbal sequential learning. My goal for this study is to provide preliminary data to establish a solid foundation for a larger grant that will investigate how learning processes and language skills influence one another in children with cochlear implants.
What do you hope to demonstrate through your research—or what has it already demonstrated?
The long-term goal of my research is to inform and improve evidence-based practice for audiologists and speech-language pathologists who work with children with mild to severe hearing loss. I also hope to foster interdisciplinary communication and collaborative work between audiologists and SLPs for the benefit of both professions. I’m particularly proud that my collaborators and I have sought to bring more attention to children with mild to moderately severe hearing loss. This group of children has historically been overlooked in the research literature, and underserved in clinical and educational settings. Through several longitudinal, multi-center grants, funded through the National Institutes of Health, we have highlighted the positive impact of consistent listening and language input on outcomes of children who are hard of hearing.
Why did you choose this particular research focus?
I have wanted to work with children with hearing loss since I was a college freshman. As a dually certified clinician and researcher in the field of pediatric aural habilitation, with a background in developmental psychology, I have always been interested in exploring what underlies individual differences in language skills for children with cochlear implants. Over the years, pediatric audiology and aural habilitation have become even more fascinating, thanks to the advent of early hearing detection and intervention, and advancements in hearing technology.
How has ASHFoundation funding affected your professional life?
The Clinical Research Grant allowed me to continue building my own independent line of research in pediatric aural habilitation, and also led to additional funding. I received an R21 Early Career Award through the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders last summer.
Perhaps the biggest impact on my professional life is that I have been able to use my ASHFoundation funding to support undergraduates and graduate students in my lab. I wanted to work in academia so that I could be involved in training new generations of clinician-researchers, as my mentors did for me. I encourage all of my students to apply for internal and external funding, particularly as it relates to ASHA. I’ve learned first-hand that even the smallest grants can help to create momentum when we’re trying to reach academic goals.
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July 2018
Volume 23, Issue 7