Behavioural and fMRI studies have revealed enhanced auditory abilities and differences in the brain organization of early blind individuals compared to sighted. We used fMRI to assess cortical interactions associated with speech processing of repeated and novel stimuli. Although the in-scanner behavior for the blind and sighted groups were comparable, there were a number of cortical activation and deactivation differences. Additionally, the blind participants were better at a post-scan recall task. Cross-modal recruitment of occipital areas was found in the blind participants. They also showed widespread repetition-enhancement effects, suggesting that additional attention mechanisms contribute to their enhanced auditory word encoding abilities.