Audiovisual speech processing in relationship to phonological and vocabulary skills in first graders

Liesbeth Gijbels, Jason D. Yeatman, Kaylah Lalonde, Adrian K.C. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: It is generally accepted that adults use visual cues to improve speech intelligibility in noisy environments, but findings regarding visual speech benefit in children are mixed. We explored factors that contribute to audiovisual (AV) gain in young children’s speech understanding. We examined whether there is an AV benefit to speech-in-noise recognition in children in first grade and if visual salience of phonemes influences their AV benefit. We explored if individual differences in AV speech enhancement could be explained by vocabulary knowledge, phonological awareness, or general psychophysical testing performance. Method: Thirty-seven first graders completed online psychophysical experiments. We used an online single-interval, four-alternative forced-choice picturepointing task with age-appropriate consonant–vowel–consonant words to measure auditory-only, visual-only, and AV word recognition in noise at −2 and −8 dB SNR. We obtained standard measures of vocabulary and phonological awareness and included a general psychophysical test to examine correlations with AV benefits. Results: We observed a significant overall AV gain among children in first grade. This effect was mainly attributed to the benefit at −8 dB SNR, for visually distinct targets. Individual differences were not explained by any of the child variables. Boys showed lower auditory-only performances, leading to significantly larger AV gains. Conclusions: This study shows AV benefit, of distinctive visual cues, to word recognition in challenging noisy conditions in first graders. The cognitive and linguistic constraints of the task may have minimized the impact of individual differences of vocabulary and phonological awareness on AV benefit. The gender difference should be studied on a larger sample and age range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5022-5040
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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