Babbling sounds with consonant-vowel repetitions, such as 'dada,' are common among infants once they reach 8 months old, however, these sounds are not prevalent among infants who have profound hearing loss, that is, until they receive cochlear implants, researchers said.

University of Missouri research shows that babies' repetitive babbles primarily are motivated by infants' ability to hear themselves.

Additionally, infants with profound hearing loss who received cochlear implants to improve their hearing soon babbled as often as their hearing peers, allowing them to catch up developmentally.

"Hearing is a critical aspect of infants' motivation to make early sounds," said Mary Fagan, an assistant professor of communication science and disorders in the MU School of Health Professions.

"The fact that they attend to and learn from their own behaviours, especially in speech, highlights how infants' own experiences help their language, social and cognitive development.

"This research doesn't diminish the importance of the speech that babies hear from others - we know they need to learn from others - but it raises our awareness that infants are not just passive recipients of what others say to them. They are actively engaged in their own developmental process," Fagan said.

"The research tells us that infants are motivated by hearing the sounds they produce, so these sounds are functional in some way," Fagan noted.

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.


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