How Well Can Children Recognize Speech Features in Spectrograms? Comparisons by Age and Hearing Status

Ertmer, David J.
June 2004
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Jun2004, Vol. 47 Issue 3, p484
Academic Journal
Real-time spectrographic displays (SDs) have been used in speech training for more than 30 years with adults and children who have severe and profound hearing impairments. Despite positive outcomes from treatment studies, concerns remain that the complex and abstract nature of spectrograms may make these speech training aids unsuitable for use with children. This investigation examined how well children with normal hearing sensitivity and children with impaired hearing can recognize spectrographic cues for vowels and consonants, and the ages at which these visual cues are distinguished. Sixty children (30 with normal hearing sensitivity, 30 with hearing impairments) in 3 age groups (6-7, 8-9, and 10-11 years) were familiarized with the spectrographic characteristics of selected vowels and consonants. The children were then tested on their ability to select a match far a model spectrogram from among 3 choices. Overall scores indicated that spectrographic cues were recognized with greater-than-chance accuracy by all age groups. Formant contrasts were recognized with greater accuracy than consonant manner contrasts. Children with normal hearing sensitivity and those with hearing impairment performed equally well.


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