Studying the sounds of childhood

The sounds of childhood are rich and varied, providing children with opportunities to learn about their native language and the world around them. How do young children make sense of these sounds? The BabyTalk research project at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center studies the language development of young children with and without hearing loss.


About the research project

Visiting our lab

Visiting our lab

Our lab is located on the fourth floor of Ohio State's Eye and Ear Institute. Parking is free and convenient - there are always available spots open for visitors! We have a space for families to enjoy snacks and play during their time in the lab. Parents and children stay together throughout the visit.

Afterwards, children receive "Infant Scientist" certificates and families are compensated for their time. We have several different studies going on for children three months to three years. Find out more about the different aims and methods below.
Collecting speech samples

Collecting speech samples at home

With LENA technology, children can wear a small, portable recording device in specially-designed vests during their daily activities at home. Each LENA device can hold 16 hours worth of speech and sounds!

Families' daily routines are preserved, allowing us to study children's language environments at home, instead of in the lab. Like a Fitbit for words, the LENA device computes the number to words children hear.
Studying childrens speech processing

Studying children's speech processing

Building our vocabulary is a process that begins in infancy and continues throughout our lives. How do young children learn the meaning behind new words?

While seated on their caregiver's lap, children watch videos that may introduce new objects with unfamiliar names. Then children see two objects side-by-side and listen to instructions to find a particular target. Children can use their eyes to let us know what they learned from the video!

Principal Investigator


Derek Houston, PhD

Director, Baby Talk Research Labs

Meet our Team

We are an interdisciplinary team with diverse backgrounds in cognitive and developmental psychology, linguistics and speech and language pathology. We share a common goal of understanding the process by which children learn new words. In particular, we are interested in the ways infant-directed speech can help children connect the words they hear to the world around them.

BabyTalk TeamDerek Houston, PhD
Jessa Reed, PhD
Jongmin Jung, PhD
Yuanyuan Wang, PhD
Jamie Kuess
Dania Ahmed



The work we do is possible only with the support of families who participate in our research studies. Listed below are several publications that highlight the different research studies in our lab.
  • Houston, D.M. and 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 (Abstract)
  • Cristia, A., Seidl, A., Singh, L., and Houston, D.M. (in press). Test-retest reliability in infant speech perception tasks. Infancy.
  • Phan, J., Houston, D.M., Ruffin, C., Ting, J., and Holt, Rachael, F. (2016). Factors affecting speech discrimination in children with cochlear implants: Evidence from early-implanted infants. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 27, 480-488 (Abstract)
  • Ma, W., Golinkoff, R.M., Houston, D.M. and Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2011). Word learning in Infant- and adult-directed speech. Language, Learning and Development, 7, 185-201