Development of open-set word recognition in children: Speech-shaped noise and two-talker speech maskers

Nicole E. Corbin, Angela Yarnell Bonino, Emily Buss, Lori J. Leibold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Objective: The goal of this study was to establish the developmental trajectories for children s open-set recognition of monosyllabic words in each of two maskers: two-talker speech and speech-shaped noise. Design: Listeners were 56 children (5 to 16 years) and 16 adults, all with normal hearing. Thresholds for 50% correct recognition of monosyllabic words were measured in a two-talker speech or a speech-shaped noise masker in the sound field using an open-set task. Target words were presented at a fixed level of 65 dB SPL throughout testing, while the masker level was adapted. A repeated-measures design was used to compare the performance of three age groups of children (5 to 7 years, 8 to 12 years, and 13 to 16 years) and a group of adults. The pattern of age-related changes during childhood was also compared between the two masker conditions. Results: Listeners in all four age groups performed more poorly in the two-talker speech than the speech-shaped noise masker, but the developmental trajectories differed for the two masker conditions. For the speech-shaped noise masker, children s performance improved with age until about 10 years of age, with little systematic child adult differences thereafter. In contrast, for the two-talker speech masker, children s thresholds gradually improved between 5 and 13 years of age, followed by an abrupt improvement in performance to adultlike levels. Children s thresholds in the two masker conditions were uncorrelated. Conclusions: Younger children require a more advantageous signal-tonoise ratio than older children and adults to achieve 50% correct word recognition in both masker conditions. However, children s ability to recognize words appears to take longer to mature and follows a different developmental trajectory for the two-talker speech masker than the speech-shaped noise masker. These findings highlight the importance of considering both age and masker type when evaluating children s masked speech perception abilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-63
Number of pages9
JournalEar and hearing
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • Children
  • Masking
  • Speech in noise
  • Speech perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Speech and Hearing


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