Spatial hearing and functional auditory skills in children with unilateral hearing loss

Nicole E. Corbin, Emily Buss, Lori J. Leibold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to characterize spatial hearing abilities of children with longstanding unilateral hearing loss (UHL). UHL was expected to negatively impact children’s sound source localization and masked speech recognition, particularly when the target and masker were separated in space. Spatial release from masking (SRM) in the presence of a two-talker speech masker was expected to predict functional auditory performance as assessed by parent report. Method: Participants were 5-to 14-year-olds with sensorineural or mixed UHL, age-matched children with normal hearing (NH), and adults with NH. Sound source localization was assessed on the horizontal plane (−90° to 90°), with noise that was either all-pass, low-pass, high-pass, or an unpredictable mixture. Speech recognition thresholds were measured in the sound field for sentences presented in two-talker speech or speechshaped noise. Target speech was always presented from 0°; the masker was either colocated with the target or spatially separated at ±90°. Parents of children with UHL rated their children’s functional auditory performance in everyday environments via questionnaire. Results: Sound source localization was poorer for children with UHL than those with NH. Children with UHL also derived less SRM than those with NH, with increased masking for some conditions. Effects of UHL were larger in the two-talker than the noise masker, and SRM in twotalker speech increased with age for both groups of children. Children with UHL whose parents reported greater functional difficulties achieved less SRM when either masker was on the side of the better-hearing ear. Conclusions: Children with UHL are clearly at a disadvantage compared with children with NH for both sound source localization and masked speech recognition with spatial separation. Parents’ report of their children’s real-world communication abilities suggests that spatial hearing plays an important role in outcomes for children with UHL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4495-4512
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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