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J Acoust Soc Am. 2008 Jun;123(6):4393-402. doi: 10.1121/1.2890749.

Frequency discrimination learning in children.

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  • 1MRC Institute of Hearing Research, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, United Kingdom.


Psychoacoustic thresholds of pure tone frequency discrimination (FD) in children are elevated relative to those of adults. It has been shown that it is possible to improve FD thresholds in adults, following a single (subhour) training session. To determine whether FD thresholds in children may be improved by training and, consequently, reduced to adult levels, 100 normally hearing 6- to 11-year-old children and adults received approximately 1 h of training on a FD task at 1 kHz. At the start of training, a quarter of all child participants had FD thresholds that resembled those of naive adults (adult-like subgroup). Another quarter achieved thresholds that were adult-like at some point during training (trainable subgroup). For the remainder (nonadult-like subgroup), thresholds did not reach those of naive adult listeners at any point in the training session. Subgroup membership was linked to the influence of three factors-age, nonverbal IQ, and attention. However, across subgroups, learning was found not to generalize to either a different standard frequency (4 kHz) or a variable (roving) presentation paradigm. The results indicate that it is possible for some children to achieve FD thresholds comparable to those of naive adults, either natively or after limited training.

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