Speech intelligibility in free field: spatial unmasking in preschool children

J Acoust Soc Am. 2007 Feb;121(2):1047-55. doi: 10.1121/1.2409863.


This study introduces a new test (CRISP-Jr.) for measuring speech intelligibility and spatial release from masking (SRM) in young children ages 2.5-4 years. Study 1 examined whether thresholds, masking, and SRM obtained with a test designed for older children (CRISP) and CRISP-Jr. are comparable in 4 to 5-year-old children. Thresholds were measured for target speech in front, in quiet, and with a different-sex masker either in front or on the right. CRISP-Jr. yielded higher speech reception thresholds (SRTs) than CRISP, but the amount of masking and SRM did not differ across the tests. In study 2, CRISP-Jr. was extended to a group of 3-year-old children. Results showed that while SRTs were higher in the younger group, there were no age differences in masking and SRM. These findings indicate that children as young as 3 years old are able to use spatial cues in sound source segregation, which suggests that some of the auditory mechanisms that mediate this ability develop early in life. In addition, the findings suggest that measures of SRM in young children are not limited to a particular set of stimuli. These tests have potentially useful applications in clinical settings, where bilateral fittings of amplification devices are evaluated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Age Factors
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perceptual Masking*
  • Reference Values
  • Social Environment*
  • Sound Localization
  • Speech Perception*
  • Speech Reception Threshold Test*