Children with cochlear implants (CIs) display great variability in their vocabulary outcomes despite early implantation (Boons et al., 2013). Variance in these outcomes may be partly explained by individual differences in music exposure and engagement and in parent musicality, which are associated with language skills in children with typical and atypical development and which may support speech segmentation and word learning processes (Ladányi et al., 2020; Nayak et al., 2021; Torppa & Huotilainen, 2019). This study investigates this hypothesis by testing 16 Italian cochlear-implanted children with severe to profound hearing loss longitudinally, before implantation (mean age=16 months, SD=7.7, range=9-32) and three, six, and twelve months after implantation. Children’s vocabulary knowledge was investigated using the MacArthur-Bates-Communication Development Inventory (MB-CDI) and video-recordings of mother-child interactions at each session. Children’s music exposure was recorded continuously over the first year after implantation by the children’s devices and analyzed using CI data logs. Music exposure and maternal musicality were investigated using additional self-report questionnaires (Müllensiefen et al., 2014; Politimou et al., 2019). Preliminary analyses on the MB-CDI scores with maternal education as covariate showed that mothers’ musicality predicted the expressive vocabulary that children achieved three months after implantation. A linear regression on children’s receptive vocabulary three months after implantation showed a significant effect of the average daily exposure received to music in the first three months after surgery. In both cases, adding the additional musical variables in the models on children’s vocabulary significantly improved the proportion of variance explained. These results suggest that inherited musical abilities from mothers and music exposure and engagement in the first few months after implantation are important factors affecting expressive and receptive vocabulary acquisition in infants and toddlers with CIs. The results relative to early music exposure may have important implications for music programs, clinicians, and families.
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