The long-term aim of this project is to identify and explain the factors responsible for the development of hearing in complex acoustic environments that contain multiple sources of sound. Previous research has consistently demonstrated that infants and children are more vulnerable to interference from competing backgrounds sounds than adults. These development effects in the ability to hear target sounds, such as speech, in the presence of competing background sounds can be substantial for children with normal hearing sensitivity, but are more pronounced for children with hearing impairment.
Despite the fact that infants must learn about speech and language in the presence of competing sounds, we have a limited understanding of the factors that influence children’s hearing in noise, and few studies have addressed the specific challenges faced by infants and children with hearing impairment.
The proposed experiments will characterize developmental effects in the ability to hear target sounds in the presence of competing background sounds and will identify acoustic-cue combinations that improve hearing in noise for both normal-hearing and hearing-impaired infants and children. These experiments rely on behavioral methods using well-characterized multi-tonal and noise stimuli as well as speech perception testing in the presence of competing noise or speech.
The results of the proposed studies will provide much needed normative data and are expected to contribute to the formation of pediatric measures of complex auditory perception. There is also the potential these data will lead to improved strategies to optimize the delivery of auditory information for infants and children with hearing impairment.