Infant auditory sensitivity to pure tones and frequency-modulated tones

Lori J. Leibold, Lynne A. Werner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


It has been suggested that infants respond preferentially to infant-directed speech because their auditory sensitivity to sounds with extensive frequency modulation (FM) is better than their sensitivity to less modulated sounds. In this experiment, auditory thresholds for FM tones and for unmodulated, or pure, tones in a background of noise were measured for 4-month-old infants using a conditioned response procedure. The FM tones swept from 150 to 275 Hz or from 150 to 550 Hz. The frequency of the pure tone was either 275 or 550 Hz. The results showed that infants were slightly, but significantly, more sensitive to the sounds that included 550 Hz than they were to the lower frequency sounds, whether or not the sound was frequency modulated. It appears that infants could be somewhat more sensitive to infant-directed than to adult-directed speech, not because of FM per se, but because the fundamental frequency excursions in infant-directed speech extend into a higher frequency range than those in adult-directed speech.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-233
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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