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Exciting news for UNC’s Hearing Research and UNC Children’s Cochlear Implant Center

A multi-center team, including UNC’s Hearing Research Laboratory and Boys Town National Research Hospital, was recently awarded a 5-year R01 grant to develop a pediatric speech perception test that can be administered in English or Spanish. Over 15% of children in the US are raised in Spanish-speaking homes. However, clinical assessment of speech perception in preschoolers and school-age children is generally performed using English materials. Speech perception scores are better when testing is performed in the patient’s native language. Therefore, when a Spanish speaking child performs poorly we don’t know whether that is because of a hearing problem or limited familiarity with English.

The goal of this project is to develop a test that can be administered in the child’s dominant language – English or Spanish. Importantly, testing is fully automated, so the audiologist administering the test doesn’t need to be fluent in Spanish to obtain valid results for a Spanish dominant child. This test is a four-alternative, forced-choice picture-pointing task. Target words are two-syllabic nouns familiar to young children, and background maskers are either speech-shaped noise or two-talker speech.

Unc Hearing Research

In this example, the child hears the word tiger and responds by selecting one of the four buttons on a computer screen.

In the first two years of this project we will refine the test materials and procedures, and establish threshold norms for 4- to 12-year-olds. These norms will include Spanish/English bilingual and monolingual English speakers, as well as children with hearing loss. The final three years of the grant will evaluate the test procedures in seven busy pediatric audiology clinics, including The Children’s Cochlear Implant Center at UNC. Clinician feedback will be solicited to further improve test procedures. The end result is expected to improve our ability to audiologically evaluate and manage children who speak English, Spanish or both languages.

Click on the name of an auditory science researcher for information on current projects.