The Challenge of Listening at Home: Speech and Noise Levels in Homes of Young Children With Hearing Loss

Ear Hear. 2020 Nov/Dec;41(6):1575-1585. doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000896.


Objectives: The objective of this study was to characterize the acoustics of the home environment of young children with hearing loss. Specifically, we aimed to quantify the range of speech levels, noise levels, and signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) encountered by children with hearing loss in their homes.

Design: Nine families participated in the study. The children with hearing loss in these families were between 2 and 5 years of age. Acoustic recordings were made in the children's homes over one weekend (Saturday and Sunday) using Language ENvironmental Analysis (LENA) recorders. These recordings were analyzed using LENA's proprietary software to determine the range of speech and noise levels in the child's home. A custom Matlab program analyzed the LENA output to estimate the SNRs in the children's homes.

Results: The average SNR encountered by children with hearing loss in our sample was approximately +7.9 dB SNR. It is important to note that our analyses revealed that approximately 84% of the SNRs experienced by these children with hearing loss were below the +15 dB SNR recommended by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. Averaged across families, speech and noise levels were 70.1 and 62.2 C-weighted decibels, respectively.

Conclusions: These data show that, for much of the time, young children with hearing loss are forced to listen under suboptimal conditions in their home environments. This has important implications as listening under these conditions could negatively affect learning opportunities for young children with hearing loss. To mitigate these potential negative effects, the use of assistive listening devices that improve the SNR (e.g., remote microphone systems) should be considered for use at home by young children with hearing loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Perception
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Deafness*
  • Hearing Aids*
  • Hearing Loss*
  • Humans
  • Speech
  • Speech Perception*