The overall goal of the proposed research is to improve communication access in complex listening environments for children with minimal/mild hearing loss (CMMHL). These children experience greater speech-perception difficulties in noise and reverberation than children with normal hearing (CNH), as well as potential delays in speech/language development and educational progress. MMHL may reduce the quantity and quality of auditory experiences. Thie combined effects of acoustic environment, elevated hearing thresholds, and the lack or limited use of amplification are likely to produce inconsistent audibility during auditory-skill development. The result will be a cumulative negative effect on fundamental auditory skills that are important for understanding speech in acoustically complex environments. If these skills are immature, CMMHL will need to devote greater cognitive effort to understanding speechi, leaving fewer resources for other complex processes. The use of visual information also may impact speech understanding. Research examining auditory skills (grouping, selective/divided attention, talker localization) and audiovisual speech perception are limited with CMMHL. It is essential to document how CMMHL compare to CNH on these skills. Studies in Aim 1 will examine the impact of auditory skills for speech perception in auditory-only and audiovisual conditions. This information (1) will increase our understanding of the use of auditory and multimodal skills for listening in complex environments and (2) identify CMMHL who may be at greater risk for difficulties. To appreciate the interaction between auditory skills and real-worid listening, it is important to examine performance in realistic environments during complex listening tasks. Laboratory studies only provide an approximation of these environments and testing in actual classrooms lacks experimental control due to their active nature. The studies under Aim 2 incorporate active learning tasks representative of typical classroom activities within a novel laboratory environment that provides simulation of plausible classroom environments. The results of these studies (1) will identify effective strategies for coping with multi-sensory input and (2) will lead to significant changes in ttie ways CMMHL are served.
Minimal/mild hearing loss (MMHL) may reduce children's auditory experiences, impacting speech understanding in complex environments. The proposed studies examine auditory skills in children with MMHL and how those skills relate to speech understanding during realistic listening tasks. The results can influence habilitative strategies for children with MMHL, optimizing communication access and educational outcomes.
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