Intentional Switching of Spatial Auditory Selectiver auditive Attention in Prescholl Children
- Research Area:
- Auditory Scene Analysis,
- Type of Thesis:
Master Thesis of Seitz, Julia
From the beginning of their auditory development, children are immediately confronted with the challenge of orienting themselves in complex acoustic situations. Whether a parent’s voice or a passing vehicle, it is crucial to distinguish an auditory signal from the acoustic environment. Spatially distributed sound sources, distracting sounds, and disturbing background noise, for example, impede this listening process. The ability to focus on the relevant target source while blocking out simultaneous distracting sounds in a multi-layered acoustic environment is known as auditory selective attention or the cocktail party effect. In everyday communication situations, people can shift attention from one target sound to another, such as when children are called by their parents while talking to another child. Therefore, children also develop the ability to intentionally switch their auditory selective attention from one sound source to another. At the Institute of Hearing Technology and Acoustics in Aachen, a paradigm was developed to study the intentional switching of auditory selective attention in children. It considers spatial reproduction and background noise. This thesis extended the paradigm to examine the ability of intentional switching in auditory selective attention in preschool children aged three to six years. For this purpose, a listening experiment with ninety-one children (3-6 years, 47.25 % female) was conducted in several day-care centers in Aachen. The research hypothesis was that the ability of intentional switching in auditory selective attention matures between the ages of three and six. In addition, the extent to which background noise as well as different spatial sound source distributions influence this intentional attention switching were examined. Differences in response time between age groups were found, in particular a significant decrease in response time between three- and five-year-olds. This is thought to be due to termination of myelination of the brain stem’s radiations to the auditory cortex at age five. It has been confirmed that children are affected by background noise. Surprisingly, this was reflected in a decrease in response times for experiment parts with noise compared to those without. Possible reasons for this could be a noise avoidance strategy or an increase in attention caused by noise. It was revealed that children could not use less complex spatial sound source distributions to their benefit, which is probably related to the still ongoing myelination of the connection between the two cerebral hemispheres that lasts into the teenage years. The investigation of the suitability of the paradigm for three- to six-year-old children showed that the paradigm is appropriate for fourto six-year-olds. More than half of the three-year-olds were not able to successfully complete the introduction tasks, which is why only a conditional suitability of the paradigm was determined for this age group.