P15Session 1 (Thursday 12 January 2023, 15:30-17:30)Development of perception of speech in babble noise, in 5 to 10 years old children
Context: Perception of speech-in-noise is a key auditory process, especially during development as children are exposed to noisy environment that can greatly disrupt learning. This is even more so the case in children with learning disorders (especially speech language impairment and dyslexia) who often show a deficit in perception of speech-in-noise, especially in the most challenging situation of informational masking (i.e., babble noise). Speech-in-noise thus needs to be assessed thoroughly throughout development.
Method: Ninety-six 5 to 10 years old children were tested in their school environment with a closed-set perception of speech-in-babble-noise test (Audimages). Children were binaurally presented a target-word that they had to recognize among four pictures on a tablet. Performances were compared for two intertwined levels of difficulty, defined by the level of phonological similarity between the 4 words in the response set: “difficult” condition for similar words, “easy” for dissimilar words. A babble-noise consisting of 16 mixed unintelligible female and male voices was presented during the task. Children were tested at two levels of signal/noise ratio: -3 dB SNR and +3 dB SNR.
Results: Results indicate statistically significant effects of age, SNR, and difficulty. No interaction involving the age effect was significant. Specifically, perception of speech-in-babble-noise performance increased linearly with age from 5 to 10 years of age, but did not reach adult’s performance by 10 years of age. The developmental aspect of this study shows that perception of speech-in-babble-noise abilities are maturing throughout childhood and are far from being mature at 10 years of age, with a gap of 3 dB SNR in average between young adults and children. Phonological proximity effects, observed in a closed-set test, are robust in children regardless of the level of noise or developmental stage and highlight the need to carefully consider such effects in the definition of normative values for such tests.
Conclusion: Lastly, this study highlights the importance of children’s acoustic environment in the classroom and the potential detrimental effect of an environment involving informational masking on speech understanding.