Factors affecting sensitivity to frequency change in school-age children and adults

Emily Buss, Crystal N. Taylor, Lori J. Leibold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Purpose: The factors affecting frequency discrimination in school-age children are poorly understood. The goal of the present study was to evaluate developmental effects related to memory for pitch and the utilization of temporal fine structure.

Method: Listeners were 5.1-to 13.6-year-olds and adults, all with normal hearing. A subgroup of children had musical training. The task was a 3-alternative forced choice in which listeners identified the interval with the higher frequency tone or the tone characterized by frequency modulation (FM). The standard was 500 or 5000 Hz, and the FM rate was either 2 or 20 Hz.

Results: Thresholds tended to be higher for younger children than for older children and adults for all conditions, although this age effect was smaller for FM detection than for pure-tone frequency discrimination. Neither standard frequency nor modulation rate affected the child/adult difference FM thresholds. Children with musical training performed better than their peers on pure-tone frequency discrimination at 500 Hz.

Conclusions: Testing frequency discrimination using a low-rate FM detection task may minimize effects related to cognitive factors like memory for pitch or training effects. Maturation of frequency discrimination does not appear to differ across conditions in which listeners are hypothesized to rely on temporal cues and place cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1972-1982
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Children
  • Development
  • Hearing
  • Psychoacoustics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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