Director, Baby Talk Research Labs

Derek HoustonAssociate Professor, Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences


BA: University of Oregon, psychology (major), French (minor), 1988-1993
BA: State University of New York at Buffalo, cognitive psychology, 1994-1996
MA: Johns Hopkins University, 1996-1999
PhD: Johns Hopkins University, Cognitive psychology, 2000
Fellowship: Indiana University School of Medicine, NIH Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Pediatric Cochlear Implant Outcomes

Research Interests:
  • Early language development
  • Cognitive development
  • Social interaction
  • Hearing loss
  • Cochlear implants
Research Projects

Research Projects

Age at cochlear implantation and novel word learning

A key finding of our work is that early auditory experience affects not only the auditory system itself, but also the interactions of the auditory system with other sensory and cognitive systems. We found that deaf infants were better able to learn associations between what they hear (e.g., spoken words) and what they see (e.g., objects) if they received cochlear implants at 6-14 months of age than if they received them 14-24 months of age (Houston et al., 2012). We also found that this ability to quickly learn novel words predicts later language outcomes, suggesting that it’s a key skill for successful outcomes after cochlear implantation.

Early language and interaction and interaction experience

Early auditory experience depends not only on access to auditory input, but also the nature of that input. In a current NIDCD-funded project, we are recording real-world input in the home to infants and toddlers who use hearing aids and/or cochlear implants using the Language ENvironment Analysis (LENA) system. We are analyzing the recordings to determine the quantity of spoken language input directed to children and qualities of that input, such as intonational properties and characteristics of the vocabulary used. We will investigate how these quantitative and qualitative properties influence language outcomes, especially children’s ability to learn novel words.

Another study investigates the dynamics of parent-child interactions to determine how coordination of interactions affects object name learning. For example, do children learn object names better when the parent holds an objet and directs the child’s attention to it or if the parent waits to name the object when the child attends to the object on his/her own? How does auditory experience influences the effects of these interactions? These questions are addressed using head-mounted cameras, eye trackers, audio recordings, and object recognition technology (see Figure) to produce information-rich data collected during parent-child free-play sessions. Sophisticated algorithms allow us to mine the data for patterns connecting interactions to learning.

Figure 1: Apparatus to capture temporarily dense multi-sensory data.

Additional Research

Other projects include assessment of infants’ speech perception skills after cochlear implantation and investigating the effects of auditory experience on the development of nonverbal/nonauditory cognitive skills.
Research Accomplishments

Research Accomplishments

Current Research Support

Infant-Directed Speech and Language Development in Infants with Hearing Loss
R01 DC008581

Variability in Speech Recognition for Adults with Cochlear Implants: Bottom-up and Top-down Factors
Primary Sponsor
K23 DC015539

Action and interaction in infants with hearing loss, before and after cochlear implantation
Primary Sponsor

Infant-Directed Speech and Language Development in Infants with Hearing Loss (Diversity Supplement)
Primary Sponsor


Houston, D.M., Pisoni, D.B., Kirk, K.I., Ying, E.A., & Miyamoto, R.T. (2003). Speech perception skills of deaf infants following cochlear implantation: A first report. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 67, 479-495.

Houston, D. M., Carter, A. K., Pisoni, D. B., Kirk, K. I., & Ying, E. A. (2005). Word learning in children following cochlear implantation. The Volta Review, 105, 41-72.

Houston, D.M., Horn, D.L., Qi, R., Ting, J., & Gao, S. (2007).  Assessing speech discrimination in individual infants.  Infancy, 12, 119-145

Houston, D.M., Beer, J., Bergeson, T.R., Chin, S.B., Pisoni, D.B., & Miyamoto, R.T. (2012).  The ear is connected to the brain: Some new directions in the study of children with cochlear implants at Indiana University, Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 23, 446-463. 

Houston, D.M., Stewart, J., Moberly, A., Hollich, G., & Miyamoto, R.T. (2012). Word learning in deaf children with cochlear implants: Effects of early auditory experience, Developmental Science, 15(3), 448-461. 

Houston, D.M. & Bergeson, T.R. (2014). Hearing versus Listening: Attention to Speech and Its Role in Language Acquisition in Deaf Infants with Cochlear Implants, Lingua, 139, 10-25

Phan, J., Houston, D.M., Ruffin, C., Ting, J., & Holt, R.F. (2016). Factors affecting speech discrimination in children with cochlear implants: Evidence from early-implanted infants. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 27(6), 480-488. 

Wang, Y., Bergeson, T., & Houston, D. (2017). Infant-directed speech enhances attention to speech in deaf infants with cochlear implants. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 60, 3321-3333. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-H-17-0149 (Journal article) 

Houston, D.M. & Warner-Czyz, A. (in press). Speech perception and auditory development in infants with and without hearing loss. In Bar-On, Amalia & Ravid, Dorit (eds.). Handbook of Communication Disorders. Theoretical, Empirical, and Applied Linguistics Perspectives. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.

Wang, Y., Shafto, C., & Houston, D. (in press). Attention to speech and spoken language development in deaf children with cochlear implants: A ten-year longitudinal study. Developmental Science. (Journal article)
Other Information

Other Information

Academic Appointments

Assistant Professor and Philip F. Holton Scholar, 2002 - 2009
Associate Professor and Philip F. Holton Scholar, 2009 - 2015
Director, DeVault Otologic Research Laboratory, 2014 - 2015

Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery
Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana

Adjunct Associate Professor, 2015 - current
PhD Program in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences
The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY

Associate Professor, 2015 - current

Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery
The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, Ohio

Awards and Honors

American Psychological Association Young Investigator Award  
Monitor on Psychology, December, 2001, 32(11)

Philip F. Holton Scholar (endowed faculty position), 2002-2015
Indiana University School of Medicine

Teaching and Mentoring

Director, Summer Research Traineeship for Medical Students, 2002 - 2007
Indiana University School of Medicine, Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Conducted as a part of NIDCD training (T32 DC00012; PD: David Pisoni, Ph.D.) Training in speech, hearing and sensory communication.

Language Development in Children with Cochlear Implants (2013). European Masters in Clinical Linguistics (EMCL) 4-week course in Potsdam, Germany.

Guest Lectures for courses and seminars:
Physiological Psychology, Johns Hopkins University (1996); Developmental Psychology, Johns Hopkins University (1997); Human Neuropsychology, Johns Hopkins University (1998); Oral Rehabilitation, Butler University (2001); Cochlear Implants, Indiana University School of Medicine (2001); Sensorimotor Neuroplasticity, Indiana University (2002); Research Methods, University of Washington (2005); Pediatrics Grand Rounds, Riley Hospital for Children (2006); Pediatrics Grand Rounds, Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis; Pediatric Audiology, Indiana University (2007, 2008); Summer Research Traineeship, DeVault Otologic Research Lab (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011); Implantable Auditory Prostheses, Indiana University (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), Audiology Online lecture (2011)

Medical Student Mentoring, 2001 - 2014
(First year medical students in the NIH Summer Research Traineeship)
2001 Steven Fountain: Perception of “Elliptical” Speech (co-mentor with David Pisoni)
2001 Andrew Sprunger: Talker Discrimination in Adult Cochlear Implant Users (co-mentor with
Karen Kirk)
2002 Jessica Stewart: Word Learning in Deaf Infants after Cochlear Implantation
2003 Aaron Moberly: Development of a Novel Word Learning Test for Infants
2004 Preethi Seshadri: Sensitivity to Rhythmic Properties of Speech in Normal-Hearing infants and
Deaf Infants with Cochlear Implants
2005 Joseph Smith: Test-retest reliability of a Novel Test of Infant Speech Discrimination
2006 Margaret Benson: Infants’ Discrimination of Vowels: Test-Retest Reliability
2008 Suzanne Field: Visual Sequence Learning in Normal Hearing and Hearing-Impaired Infants:
Finding an Early Predictor of Language
2008 Swapna Musunuru: Visual Recognition Memory in five- and eight-month-old infants and its relation
to vocabulary development
2009 Rohan Sharma: Heart Rate Deceleration as a Measure of Speech Discrimination and the
Importance of Habituation in Novelty Preference
2010 Ben Rejowski: Speech Discrimination: Using Heart Rate to Assess Attention to Speech and
Nonspeech Analogues in Infants
2014 Jigar Patel: Effects of Hearing Loss on Early Childhood Temperament

(Third and fourth year medical students research electives)
2008 – 2009 Allison Taraska: A Heart-Rate Based Measure of Infant Speech Discrimination
2008 – 2009 Jennifer Phan: Infant Dialect Discrimination
2010 Michelle Srisuwananukorn: Influence of language on stress-pattern discrimination

Post-doc Mentoring and collaborating
2003 – 2005 David Horn, MD
2005 – 2006 Rachael Holt, PhD
2005 – 2007 Jonathan Ting, MD
2010 – 2012 Jennifer Phan, MD
2011 – 2013 Chad Ruffin, MD
2012 – Irina Castellanos, PhD

Undergraduate Thesis Mentoring
2004 – 2005 Jennifer Phan, Psychology, IUPUI
Thesis title: Dialect Discrimination in Infants

2007 – 2008 Danielle Elder, Communication Disorders, Butler University
Thesis title: The Relation Between Word Stress Discrimination in Early Speech Perception and Later Lexical Development

Undergraduate Internship Course
2006 - Faculty supervisor, SH404 Communication Disorders Internship, Butler University
Students since 2006: 19

Master’s Student Mentoring
2005 – 2007 Jonathan Ting, MD, Master’s in Clinical Research

PhD Student Mentoring
2008 – 2013 Carissa Shafto, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Louisville
Dissertation title: Relations Between Nonverbal Cognitive Ability and Spoken Language
Development: Implications for Deaf Toddlers Who Use Cochlear Implants

Other Dissertation Committees
2007 – 2008 Rachel Schmale, Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University
Dissertation title: The Role of Variability in Voice and Foreign Accent in the Development of Early Word Representations
2013 - Talita Fortunato-Tavares, PhD Program in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, City University of New York
Tentative title: Prosodic Boundary Effects on Syntactic Disambiguation in Children with Cochlear Implants
2014 - Zarabeth Waldman, PhD Program in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, City University of New York