The development of auditory temporal processing during the first year of life

Hearing Balance Commun. 2022;20(3):155-165. doi: 10.1080/21695717.2022.2029092. Epub 2022 Feb 2.


Objectives: The processing of auditory temporal information is important for the extraction of voice pitch, linguistic information, as well as the overall temporal structure of speech. However, many aspects of its early development remain poorly understood. This paper reviews the development of auditory temporal processing during the first year of life when infants are acquiring their native language.

Methods: First, potential mechanisms of neural immaturity are discussed in the context of neurophysiological studies. Next, what is known about infant auditory capabilities is considered with a focus on psychophysical studies involving non-speech stimuli to investigate the perception of temporal fine structure and envelope cues. This is followed by a review of studies involving speech stimuli, including those that present vocoded signals as a method of degrading the spectro-temporal information available to infant listeners.

Results/conclusion: This review suggests that temporal resolution may be well developed in the first postnatal months, but that the ability to use and process the temporal information in an efficient way along the entire auditory pathway is longer to develop. Those findings have crucial implications for the development of language abilities, especially for infants with hearing impairment who are using cochlear implants.

Keywords: auditory development; infant perception; temporal processing.