Computer-led speech audiometric screening in toddlers

For young children access to speech is essential for the development of oral language. Reduced speech intelligibility due to congenital deafness or severe hearing loss increases the risk for permanent language impairment. In adults, such aspects of functional hearing are often measured through a ‘listen-and-repeat’-task based on sentences. However, speech test materials are not readily available for children under six. In this project, we want to address this issue by developing a new linguistically controlled speech audiometric screening instrument that is suitable for children from 2 to 6 years old and to gather normative data of hearing children in this age group.
During the last year, a pilot study was set up leading to a bèta-version of such an audiometric screening test. It was developed as a ‘picturepointing’ task using words and short sentences that are adapted to the developmental language level of the target group and includes diagnostic features. In this project, we would like to fine-tune and finalize our prototype so that it can be used in specialized audiological centers. In order to do so, a number of scientific and technical challenges need to be addressed, namely to determine (i) the exact contribution of non-auditory (linguistic) factors in speech understanding at this young age; (ii) the effect of picturepointing vs. verbal repetition on the reliability of test outcomes; and (iii) the beneficial effect of computer-led procedures on test compliance in very young children.
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