Project members

Olof Sandgren, PhD, Birgitta Sahlén, Prof. Speech-Language Pathology, Kristina Hansson, Speech-Language Pathology, Richard Andersson, PhD, Marianne Gullberg, Prof. Psycholinguistics and Joost van de Weijer, PhD.

In children/adolescents with hearing impairment, the use of visual cues, e.g. monitoring of facial expressions, is normally considered to be of great importance for successful interaction. Our method provides a way of studying the temporal link between verbal and nonverbal contributions during conversation. Differences between dyads of normally hearing children and dyads where one partner has a hearing impairment can tell us about the integration of information from different modalities. With our design a dialogic as well as an individual perspective can be taken. In combination with analysis of the dynamics in dialogue (as measured by e.g. requests, responses, breakdowns, and pause time) the use of eye tracking in conversation provides important data on the gaze mediated correlates of these linguistic events.

Important clinical and pedagogical implications for individuals with hearing impairment in a speaking environment will be gained through this project. Theoretical gains include increased knowledge of the temporal processes in the on-line creation of meaning in conversation, as well as increased knowledge about multimodal communication, the temporal integration of information from different modalities.

More specifically we are analyzing gaze behavior in interaction between children/adolescents (10-15 yrs.) with mild to moderate hearing impairment and normally hearing peers. We are relating gaze behavior to underlying cognitive and linguistic functions in a structured referential communication task. Our most important findings can be summarized as follows:

  • Children with hearing impairment display an increased likelihood to gaze at the conversational partner during conversation.
  • The child’s linguistic ability, and specifically the phonological short term memory, interacts with the hearing impairment in driving the need for gaze to the partner.
  • Children with hearing impairment and low performance on phonological short term memory tasks show more than a twofold increase in the likelihood of gaze-to-partner, whereas high performers display a decreased likelihood.

On October 18th, Olof Sandgren defended his thesis “There’s more to the picture than meets the ear – Gaze behavior during communication in children with hearing impairment”. Faculty opponent was Dr. Courtenay Norbury, Royal Holloway, University of London. The thesis, supervised by Prof. Birgitta Sahlén, investigated the communicative ability of children and adolescents with bilateral sensorineural hearing impairment by studying verbal and nonverbal interactions with normal hearing peers. The study used a referential communication task requiring the speaker to make relevant descriptions, and the listener to use verbal and nonverbal means to resolve uncertainties. Analyses focused on verbal questions and answers (paper 1), nonverbal gaze behavior in relation to the verbal production (paper 2 and 3), and the cognitive and linguistic factors influencing the gaze behavior (paper 4). The results yielded that:

  • A structured and predictive conversational setting enables speakers to include unrequested information without compromising the partner’s understanding (paper 1).
  • Gaze behavior is related to the production of verbal utterances, as shown by a higher probability of gaze to the conversational partner’s face when asking questions than making statements (paper 2).
  • Participants with hearing impairment consistently exhibit higher probability of gaze-to-partner than peers with normal hearing (paper 3).
  • Participants with hearing impairment and reduced phonological short term memory capacity show a doubled probability of gaze-to-partner, compared to peers with normal hearing (paper 4).

As described by Sandgren, the findings express the multimodality of communication, and the need for multidisciplinary assessment and therapy. Implications include pedagogical adaptations to an increased use of nonverbal cues in children and adolescents with hearing impairment. The results highlight areas of phonology and conversational strategies to target for speech-language services, and call for an evaluation of nonword repetition as a clinical marker allowing earlier identification of children with hearing impairment at risk for persistent language impairment. In an on-going project, Sandgren uses a large data base collected at the Dept. of Logopedics, Phoniatrics, & Audiology to evaluate the clinical utility of nonword repetition in the identification of children at risk for language impairment.

Publications  and submitted manuscripts/reports

Sandgren, O., Ibertsson, T., Andersson, R., Hansson, K., & Sahlén, B. (2011). ‘You sometimes get more than you ask for’: responses in referential communication between children and adolescents with cochlear implant and hearing peers. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 46(4), 375-385. doi: 10.3109/13682822.2010.507617

Sandgren, O., Andersson, R., van de Weijer, J., Hansson, K., & Sahlén, B. (2012). Timing of gazes in child dialogues: a time-course analysis of requests and back channelling in referential communication. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 47(4), 373-383. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-6984.2012.00151.x

Sandgren, O., Andersson, R., van de Weijer, J., Hansson, K., & Sahlen, B. (2013). Coordination of gaze and speech in communication between children with hearing impairment and normal-hearing peers. Journal of Speech, Language, & Hearing Research, 2013_JSLHR-L-2012-0333. doi: 10.1044/2013_jslhr-l-12-0333

Sandgren, O., Andersson, R., van de Weijer, J., Hansson, K., & Sahlén, B. (2013). Impact of cognitive and linguistic ability on gaze behavior in children with hearing impairment. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(856). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00856

Sandgren, O. (2013). There’s more to the picture than meets the ear – Gaze behavior during communication in children with hearing impairment. Dept. of Logopedics, Phoniatrics, & Audiology, Faculty of Medicine, Lund University, Lund. ISBN: 9789187449741

Conferences, workshops, lectures, invited talks

  • Poster presentation at the 11th International Conference of Cochlear Implants and Other Implantable Auditory Technologies, Stockholm, June 30-July 3 2010.
  • Poster presentation at the 1st International Congress on Cognitive Hearing Science, Linköping, June 19-22 2011 and June 16-19, 2013.
  • Poster presentation at the 12th International Congress for the Study of Child Language, Montréal, July 2011.
  • Presentation at the National network on pediatric hearing impairment (financed by the Swedish council for working life and social research, FAS) and network meetings concerning language disorders.
  • Invited speech at the national meeting for special needs educators at Riksgymnasiet.
  • Talk at Humanistdagarna, March 2012
  • Poster presentation at SLI2012, Warsaw, Poland, July 2012
  • Key note adress at the BARNAS, Örebro, September, 2012.
  • Talk at Nationell konferens i logopedi, Jönköping, November, 2012
  • Invited speaker at the International conference on education and rehabilitation in paediatric cochlear implants, ONICI, Belgium November, 2012.
  • Presentation at the SRCLD, Madison, June 2013.