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Development of Auditory Selective Attention: Why Children Struggle to Hear in Noisy Environments

Jones, P. R. ORCID: 0000-0001-7672-8397, Moore, D. & Amitay, S. (2015). Development of Auditory Selective Attention: Why Children Struggle to Hear in Noisy Environments. Developmental Psychology, 51(3), pp. 353-369. doi: 10.1037/a0038570


Children’s hearing deteriorates markedly in the presence of unpredictable noise. To explore why, 187 school-age children (4–11 years) and 15 adults performed a tone-in-noise detection task, in which the masking noise varied randomly between every presentation. Selective attention was evaluated by measuring the degree to which listeners were influenced by (i.e., gave weight to) each spectral region of the stimulus. Psychometric fits were also used to estimate levels of internal noise and bias. Levels of masking were found to decrease with age, becoming adult-like by 9–11 years. This change was explained by improvements in selective attention alone, with older listeners better able to ignore noise similar in frequency to the target. Consistent with this, age-related differences in masking were abolished when the noise was made more distant in frequency to the target. This work offers novel evidence that improvements in selective attention are critical for the normal development of auditory judgments.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: auditory masking, selective attention, internal noise, pure tone detection, reverse correlation
Subjects: R Medicine > RF Otorhinolaryngology
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Optometry & Visual Sciences
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