A study was carried out to examine the feasibility of identifying by a short test whether or not any particular profoundly deaf school child uses a speech code in short-term memory for verbal material. Consonant sequences were visually presented, drawn alternately from a set of letters which had high acoustic/articulatory similarity (AS), and from another of low similarity on this dimension, but with high shape similarity (VS). Relative recall performance from the two vocabularies is taken to represent the extent to which speech coding is used.

Almost all control hearing subjects recalled more from the VS set; almost all deaf subjects recalled more from the AS set. The test thus provides a quick method of assessing the level of oral memorizing in one situation which has pedagogic relevance. Some validity is provided by the further fact that deaf subjects selected for oral facility yielded scores which were significantly different from those of deaf subjects not so selected — and different in the direction of hearing subjects. Just the same, the most oral deaf, as a group, approached nowhere near the level of speech coding used by the hearing subjects.

Caution is suggested when comparing memory span of deaf and hearing subjects using verbal material, since it can be shown that with some consonant vocabularies, the deaf may show larger spans than the hearing.