Pure-tone frequency discrimination in preschoolers, young school-age children, and adults

Jane Rose, Mary Flaherty, Jenna Browning, Lori J. Leibold, Emily Buss

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: Published data indicate nearly adultlike frequency discrimination in infants but large child–adult differences for school-age children. This study evaluated the role that differences in measurement procedures and stimuli may have played in the apparent nonmonotonicity. Frequency discrimination was assessed in preschoolers, young school-age children, and adults using stimuli and procedures that have previously been used to test infants. Method: Listeners were preschoolers (3–4 years), young school-age children (5–6 years), and adults (19–38 years). Performance was assessed using a single-interval, observer-based method and a continuous train of stimuli, similar to that previously used to evaluate infants. Testing was completed using 500-and 5000-Hz standard tones, fixed within a set of trials. Thresholds for frequency discrimination were obtained using an adaptive, two-down one-up procedure. Adults and most school-age children responded by raising their hands. An observer-based, conditioned-play response was used to test preschoolers and those school-age children for whom the hand-raise procedure was not effective for conditioning. Results: Results suggest an effect of age and frequency on thresholds but no interaction between these 2 factors. A lower proportion of preschoolers completed training compared with young school-age children. For those children who completed training, however, thresholds did not improve significantly with age; both groups of children performed more poorly than adults. Performance was better for the 500-Hz standard frequency compared with the 5000-Hz standard frequency. Conclusions: Thresholds for school-age children were broadly similar to those previously observed using a forced-choice procedure. Although there was a trend for improved performance with increasing age, no significant age effect was observed between preschoolers and school-age children. The practice of excluding participants based on failure to meet conditioning criteria in an observer-based task could contribute to the relatively good performance observed for preschoolers in this study and the adultlike performance previously observed in infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2440-2445
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Pure-tone frequency discrimination in preschoolers, young school-age children, and adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this