Modulation perception in listening difficulties (Petley et al., 2024)
Purpose: Amplitude modulations (AMs) are important for speech intelligibility, and deficits in speech intelligibility are a leading source of impairment in childhood listening difficulties (LiD). The present study aimed to explore the relationships between AM perception and speech-in-noise (SiN) comprehension in children and to determine whether deficits in AM processing contribute to childhood LiD. Evoked responses were used to parse the neural origins of AM processing.
Method: Forty-one children with LiD and 44 typically developing children, ages 8–16 years, participated in the study. Behavioral AM depth thresholds were measured at 4 and 40 Hz. SiN tasks included the Listening in Spatialized Noise–Sentences Test (LiSN-S) and a coordinate response measure (CRM)–based task. Evoked responses were obtained during an AM change detection task using alternations between 4 and 40 Hz, including the N1 of the acoustic change complex, auditory steady-state response (ASSR), P300, and a late positive response (late potential [LP]). Maturational effects were explored via age correlations.
Results: Age correlated with 4-Hz AM thresholds, CRM separated talker scores, and N1 amplitude. Age-normed LiSN-S scores obtained without spatial or talker cues correlated with age-corrected 4-Hz AM thresholds and area under the LP curve. CRM separated talker scores correlated with AM thresholds and area under the LP curve. Most behavioral measures of AM perception correlated with the signal-to-noise ratio and phase coherence of the 40-Hz ASSR. AM change response time also correlated with area under the LP curve. Children with LiD exhibited deficits with respect to 4-Hz thresholds, AM change accuracy, and area under the LP curve.
Conclusions: The observed relationships between AM perception and SiN performance extend the evidence that modulation perception is important for understanding SiN in childhood. In line with this finding, children with LiD demonstrated poorer performance on some measures of AM perception, but their evoked responses implicated a primarily cognitive deficit.
Supplemental Material S1. EEG denoising and ERP data quality metrics. Number of ICA components rejected and number of trials accepted for averaging are reported as mean (SD). Measurement windows for ERP amplitudes and areas under the curve are reported as window limits, in milliseconds.
Petley, L., Blankenship, C., Hunter, L. L., Stewart, H. J., Lin, L., & Moore, D. R. (2024). Amplitude modulation perception and cortical evoked potentials in children with listening difficulties and their typically developing peers. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 67(2), 633–656. https://doi.org/10.1044/2023_JSLHR-23-00317