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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Communication Disorders

Year Degree Awarded

2015

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Sarah F. Poissant

Second Advisor

Richard L. Freyman

Third Advisor

Craig Wells

Subject Categories

Speech Pathology and Audiology

Abstract

Sentence recognition and auditory comprehension abilities of young adults with normal hearing (NH) and school-age children with NH and unilateral hearing loss (UHL) were tested in a mixed design. In Experiment 1, subjects’ sentence recognition abilities were measured in the presence of speech spectrum noise (SSN) and two-talker child babble (TTB) in co-located and spatially-separated target and masker configurations. In all conditions, reception thresholds for sentences (RTS) improved with age from six-to 12 years. Speech spectrum noise proved to be a more effective masker than TTB in all listening conditions, suggesting subjects were able to take advantage of temporal and spectral fluctuations in the masker. By 12 years of age, RTS appeared to be adult-like when children listened in the presence of SSN, but were still immature in TTB. Across all listening conditions, a majority of UHL subjects’ RTS fell outside ±1 standard deviation of the NH mean, indicating poorer performance for this group of listeners. Performance of UHL subjects heavily depended on spatial configuration and was poorest when the masker was directed towards their normal-hearing ear. In Experiment 2, subjects’ auditory comprehension abilities were measured in the presence of TTB at a variety of signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs). When averaged across age, NH subjects performed similarly across the different listening conditions. For most UHL subjects, performance was similar to NH subjects in all comprehension tasks suggesting like NH subjects they made use of story context to support understanding even when audibility was compromised and likely took advantage of gaps in the TTB and spatial separation of the target and masker to better glimpse/hear the target. The findings of the current study improve our understanding of both simple and complex auditory abilities of school-aged children with NH and UHL in classroom-like, noisy environments. Furthermore measurable auditory deficits were detected in the study’s sample of children with UHL.

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