Auditory Discrimination of Monolingual and Bilingual Children in Different Listening Conditions

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Introduction

Auditory Discrimination and Bilinguals

Auditory Processing History

Central Auditory Processing (AP) is defined as the “efficiency and effectiveness by which the central nervous system (CNS) utilizes auditory information” (ASHA, 2005, p. 1).  CAP is the perceptual processing of auditory information in the CNS.  In 2005, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Working Group on Auditory Processing Disorders (2005) stated that CAP:

Include the auditory mechanisms that underlie the following abilities or skills: sound localization and lateralization; auditory discrimination; auditory pattern recognition; temporal aspects of audition, including temporal integration, temporal discrimination (e.g., temporal gap detection), temporal ordering, and temporal masking; auditory performance in competing acoustic signals (including dichotic listening); and auditory performance with degraded acoustic signals. (ASHA, 2005; p. 2).

Criticism has emerged because the definition of CAP has been based on diagnostic measures rather than on general constructs (McFarland & Cacace, 2006). Furthermore, the Working Group did not provide a glossary of terms to define the different terminology, which may cause confusion among professionals and researchers.

In 2007, the Ad Hoc Committee on the role of Speech-Language-Pathologist was formed to determine the responsibility of SLPs when identifying and treating children with CAP Disorders. The committee conducted a systematic review to determine auditory interventions for children with CAPD to determine the role of SLPs (Fey et al., 2011). Previous attempts have been made to address this topic but there is still ambiguity on the function SLPs play in assessing and treating children with CAPD (ASHA, 1992, 1996; DeBonis & Moncrieff, 2008; Geffner & Ross-Swain, 2007). The debate that surged from the systematic review that included the lack of evidence based research investigators presented. The challenge is that CAPD is often related to other disorders. This makes it difficult for clinicians to isolate the CAPD as a clinical entity (Richard, 2011). For example, DeBonis & Moncrieff (2008) revealed that children with CAPD had normal hearing, but exhibited deficits of auditory processing.

Khami (2011) argues that CAPD is not a “distinct clinical entity because it lacks definite diagnostic criteria (Richard, 2011, p. 244).” Khami (2011) also explained that there is no clear definition of CAP. Wallach (2011) agrees with Khami’s position in that CAP does not indicate that there are functional intervention strategies, and that identification and treatment of this disorder should focus on language based concepts (Wallach, 2011). Wallach (2011) explains that CAP may be “the result rather than the cause of language-learning difficulties (Richard, p. 244).”

Hypotheses & Models of CAP

There are two hypotheses that describe whether processing difficulties are auditory or specific speech perception. These hypotheses are the rapid temporal processing hypothesis and the speech specific hypothesis. The rapid temporal processing hypothesis proposes that there is impairment in the processing of acoustic information in the nervous system in rapid sequences (Tallar, Miller, & Fitch, 1993; Tallar & Piercy, 1973). Studies supporting this hypothesis revealed that children with specific language impairment (SLI) can be identified by having severe deficits in auditory processing that include rapid higher order sequences (Tallal, Miller, Jenkins, & Merzenich, 1997). Additionally, researchers argued that children with SLI that exhibit temporal processing deficits are unable to integrate sensory information in multiple modalities (Tallal et al., 1993). Another aspect of this hypothesis is that children with language impairment have trouble discriminating and sequencing rapid auditory information, specifically when the stimuli presented are short vowels, short tones, or short transitional consonants (Tallal, 1980, 1981; Tallal & Piercy, 1973, 1974, 1975). These difficulties were reported for deficits of speech and non-speech stimuli. Tallal et al. (1997) used positron emission tomography (PET) to determine which neurological mechanisms are involved when processing speech at the phonemic level (Feiz et al., 1995; Fitch, Miller, & Tallal, 1997). The study revealed that “the data overwhelmingly fail to provide support for separate or uniquely human neural-processing systems for speech (Fitch et al., 1997, p. 349).” Tallal et al. (1997) revealed that neurological mechanisms for linguistic and non-speech stimuli are the same, and the processing of information is the same.

The speech-specific hypothesis proposes that processing difficulties are phonetic, not acoustic in origin. This hypothesis has been investigated by Haskins Laboratories through different experiments with children who had reading difficulties (Liberman, 1973; Mody et al., 1997; Studdert-Kennedy, 1997; Studdert-Kennedy & Mody, 1995). The researchers believe that processing difficulty is speech-specific and they surge from the inability to identify phonological categories of speech sounds that are phonetically similar rather than problems processing acoustic rapid sequences (Mody et al., 1997). The role of categorical perception when transforming speech input into the phonological code needed for working and long term memory  to get the syntactic construction and meaning (Mody, et al., 1997). Studies have revealed that children with reading deficits have demonstrated features of identification and discrimination in research of categorical perception, indicating that the phonemic boundaries can be larger with less separation (Reed, 1989; Werker & Tees, 1987). Findings suggesting that participants with  reading difficulty have problems making distinctions between /ba/- /da/, which is seen as a difficulty with spectral contrasts rather than a problem with processing temporal prompts (Studdert-Kennedy, 1997). This shows that the similarities between phonemes are phonemic rather than auditory in nature (Studdert-Kennedy, 1997).

There are different approaches for central auditory processing. Jerger (2009) identified three approaches: the audiological approach, the psychoeducational approach, and the language processing approach. The audiological approach surged from research of adults with brain injury. In the 1970s, assessment tools were developed to evaluate central auditory processing abilities of adults, but also the same tools were used to evaluate children, as described by Mykleburst (1954), had good peripheral sensitivity but did not use speech they heard accurately (Jerger, 2009).  The Central Auditory Processing term was used to describe children who scored poorly on those instruments.

The psychoeducational approach is involved with disabilities that are specific to explaining language disorders (Jergen, 2009). These specific language disabilities were described by Lahey (1988). Speech-Language-Pathologists and psychologists often focus on this method. Its focus is on limited component abilities that are thought to be needed to produce and understand spoken language and/or literacy (Miller, 2011). The specific disabilities approach is usually in literature about dyslexia as well as specific language impairment. Lahey (1988) has focused on auditory perceptual skills that have been related to the notion that specific language disabilities that contribute to academic difficulty results can be identified and remediated (Miller, 2011).

The language processing approach (Jergen, 2009) deals with how speech and language processing interact with each other, where sensitivity to the context and language knowledge is taken into account. Additionally, on this model, there is a top-down effect on how the central nervous system transmits auditory information (Miller, 2011).

Some researchers doubt the reliability and validity of the CAPD assessment tools (Cacace & McFarland, 2005; Rees, 1981), but others approve the validity and reliability (Musiek, Bellis, & Chermak, 2005). Researchers also believe that in order to have an accurate diagnosis of CAPD, test batteries need to assess “modality specificity and include multimodal assessment (Jutras et al., 2007, p. 101).”

Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD) has been a topic of discussion for more than 30 years. Moore (2011) explains two main views remain in this topic; one view suggests that CAPD is a neurological disorder, which lesions of the central nervous system provide a clear and sequenced way of assessing and treating the disorder (Moore, 2011). The other view suggests that CAPD deals with basic auditory processing, which is the basic bottom-up psychology and physiology of acoustic response to simple sounds (i.e. tones and/or broadband noise) (Moore, 2011).

The auditory system develops in early life (Abdala & Sininger, 1996; Eggermont, 1988). As the complex auditory processing develops; speech recognition, inflections, tone detection, modulation, backward & forward masking increase in performance through adolescence and adulthood (Elliot, 1979; Hall & Grose, 1994; Trehub, Schneider & Henderson, 1995; Wightman, Allen, Dolan, Kister & Jamieson, 1989). Research on the physiological aspect of the central auditory system are often explained using nonsensory features, such as poor attention/motivation or the inability to listen to specific signals (Dawes & Bishop, 2008). The problem of unscrambling those characteristics is compounded by not being able to rule out attention/motivation when presenting information to children who are typically developing using a decreased number of trials (Sutcliffe & Bishop, 2005; Werner, 1992).   Attention is the nonsensory characteristic that is most commonly mentioned when talking about CAP.   Research (Dawes & Bishop, 2009; Moore, Fergurson, Edmondson-Jones, & Ratib, 2010; Moore, Cowan, Riley, Edmondson-Jones & Ferguson, 2011; Watson & Kidd, 2009) conducted with children that are typically developing reveals that poor listening is not associated with poor thresholds on different assessment tools of auditory processing. Research revealed that poor listening is related to the variable performance on those evaluations and auditory difficulty is mainly associated with poor attention or working memory (Moore, 2011).

Two different strategies have been recommended (Moore, 2011) to decrease the effects of CAPD. One strategy is to modify children’s environment such as using amplification and listening skills. The other strategy includes using different receptive tasks to enhance the stimuli so that it will improve children’s auditory performance (Fey et al., 2011).

Many studies have made distinctions between different nonnative phonemic skills. Studies reveal that production of English consonants can be trained in children and adults. In adults, studies have revealed that perceptual training of tasks is mainly cognitive (“top down”) rather than sensory (“bottom up”) (Moore, 2011).

Auditory processing in language

Shi and Sanchez (2010) discussed that language background is dependent on different variables such as “age of acquisition, length of immersion, frequency and consistency of use, level of proficiency and mode of communication in each language (Shi & Sanchez, 2010, p. 7).” Age of acquisition mattered as early bilingual listeners performed better than listeners that acquired language at a later age (Mayo et al., 1997).

A study by Weiss & Dempsey (2008) compared English and Spanish sentence recognition on the Hearing-In-Noise Test (HINT) (Nilsson, Soli, & Sullivan, 1994; Soli, Vermiglio, Wen, & Filesari, 2002). Participants acquired Spanish from birth, but exhibited variable English acquisition. Comparisons were made in quiet and in noise conditions. Results revealed that participants who acquired English early (less than 7 years of age) performed better in English sentences than bilingual listeners who acquired English later (more than 11 years of age). However, late bilingual listeners performed better with Spanish sentences than early bilingual listeners. Findings of this study revealed that speech perception was impacted by the age of acquisition in both first and second language.

Length of immersion is another variable that have been considered when looking at language background. Bahrick, Hall, Goggin, Bahrick, & Berger (1994) conducted a study of 801 Cuban and Mexican immigrants who were residing in the US for a long time. Auditory comprehension of English passages was evaluated in quiet and in noise. Findings of the study revealed that bilingual listeners’ performance in English increased as a function of their duration in the US increased (Bahrick et al., 1994). In addition, Flege et al., (1999) compared vowel discrimination on two groups of Italian born Canadian listeners. Listeners who were in Canada for a shorter period of time made more errors than listeners who were in Canada for a long period of time, discriminating vowels with native-like proficiency (Flege et al., 1999).

Language use was also compared by Flege et al. (1999) by measuring the bilingual listeners’ use of Italian. Two groups were observed, the group who used Italian more often, and the group who used English more often. Listeners who reported to be in Canada for longer periods of time used Italian more often than other listeners who were in the country for less time. The group that used Italian more often achieved decreased scores in English vowel recognition. Similarly, the group that used English more demonstrated increased scores in English vowel recognition.

Language proficiency is another variable used in bilingual speech perception studies.  Von Hapsburg and Bahng (2006) compared how bilingual children used contextual cues on the SPIN test. Bilingual listeners were compared to monolingual listeners. Bilingual listeners were divided into moderately proficient and non-proficient groups. Both bilingual groups were determined to be late bilinguals as they acquired English between 12-13 years of age. Results of the study revealed that monolingual listeners were more proficient in using contextual clues than Korean/English bilingual listeners (von Hapsburg & Bahng, 2006). In addition, moderately proficient bilinguals made better use of contextual clues than the non-proficient group (von Hapsburg & Bahng, 2006).

Language dominance evaluates bilingual listener’s ability of two languages. Some studies have measured language dominance in bilingual listeners (Bahrick et al., 1994; Flege et al., 2002). Bahrick et al. (1994) have shown that bilingual children identify themselves as being English-dominant when they have been in the US for more than 12 years. However, bilinguals who were in the country recently (less than 12 years) identify themselves as Spanish-dominant. Another study revealed that dominance was related to the listeners’ age of acquisition and language use.

Shi & Sanchez (2010) evaluated which language to use when conducting speech perception evaluation for Spanish/English bilingual listeners. 30 bilingual listeners were evaluated in English and Spanish word recognition tests in quiet and in noise. Results revealed that S/E bilingual listeners who acquired English at the age of 10 or older benefited from a Spanish word recognition test. However, S/E bilingual listeners who acquired English from 7-10 years of age needs to be evaluated in both English and Spanish (Shi & Sanchez, 2010).

Auditory processing in literacy 

Phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics are fundamental parts of language development. According to Lake & Pappamihiel (2003) & Scarborough (2001) language and literacy develop through a continuum of stages that evolve from listening, speaking, reading, and writing regardless of the language learned. The developmental stages are independent from each other and are the groundwork for the development of abilities in the next phase (Hoff, 2004).  Receptive language increases from the exposure of linguistic input and provides lexical knowledge that is needed for expressive language abilities. Similarly, reading develops from the information obtained through expressive language; including vocabulary and grammar. Additionally, writing depends on reading ability, which is a good model of grammatical and syntactic use as well as the organizational knowledge of language (Hoff, 2004). Reading is an ability that must be learned until it is quick and automatic (Birch, 2002). The acquired phonological abilities allow the reader to match written letters to phonemes. Consequently, the reader needs to understand that letters could be combined to form words. Words can then be combined with inflections to form implied meaning (Birch, 2002).

Crandell & Smaldino (1996) conducted a study to compare the speech perception in noise and quiet of children who speak English as a second language.  The researchers conducted perceptual abilities of second language learners under masking noise that mimic the classroom noise. Participants were two groups of 20 children, one with 20 second language learners, and the other one with 20 children from mainstream backgrounds. Participants ranged in age from 8 to 10 years old (Crandell & Smaldino, 1996). A speech stimulus was presented in a sound treated room. Children were asked to repeat 16 sentences in noise and in quiet. The researchers included 50 key words and then scored the percentage correct of their responses. Findings of the study revealed that ESL children are at greater risk for decreased speech perception in noise than the mainstream children. Results suggested that as the listening environment becomes noisier, then the more detrimental it is for second language learners (Crandell & Smaldino, 1996). ESL children obtained similar perception scores as the mainstream children in the quiet condition, which concludes that ESL children had comparable linguistic knowledge as the mainstream children (Crandell & Smaldino, 1996).

Children from the mainstream backgrounds usually depend on multiple cues from speech to increase perception. The verbal prompts included repetition of phonetic, semantic and syntactic levels (Boothroyd & Nittrouer, 1988; Dapretto & Bookheimer, 1999). These conceptual cues increase speech perception, as they decrease the number of phonetic alternatives (Dapretto & Bookheimer, 1999; Marslen-Wilson, 1987). The contextual benefit is more obvious when there is a competing signal (e.g., noise) is present (Bronkhorst, Brand, & Wegener, 2002; Humes, Burke, Coughlin, Busey, & Strauser, 2007).

Mayo, Florentine, & Buus (1997) & von Hapsburg & Bahng (2006) examined how bilingual listeners benefited from contextual cues in noisy environments. Both studies used English sentences from the Speech Perception in Noise (SPIN) test (Bilger, Nuetzel, Rabinowitz, & Rzeczkowiski, 1984; Kalikow et al., 1977). The SPIN test is comprised of sentences, half containing contextual cues, and the other half does not. The study of Mayo et al., (1997) compared three groups of Spanish/English bilinguals that included simultaneous versus sequential listeners. The sequential listeners were categorized as early bilinguals, where age of acquisition was less than 6 years of age, and late bilinguals, where the age of acquisition was higher than 14 years of age (Mayo et al., 1997).  Bilingual performance was compared to native listeners. The stimulus at the sentence level was fixed at 70 dB SPL. Findings of the study revealed that bilingual listeners scored lower on the SNR test when contextual clues were available. Results also demonstrated that native and simultaneous bilingual listeners scored better when getting contextual information compared to early and late bilingual listeners (Mayo et al., 1997).

Phonological Awareness and CAP  

Difficulty in CAP abilities demonstrates deficits in the development of higher meta-linguistic abilities. CAP deficits are often present with other disabilities (Kruger, Kruger, Hugo & Campbell, 2001). The differences between CAP abilities and cognitive communicative skills are still unclear (Keith, 2004). Furthermore, auditory closure depends on general and prior knowledge, lexical repertoire, phonological abilities, and comprehension of language rules that helps the listener to provide missing information if the auditory stimuli is incomplete (Schow et al., 2000).

Bailey & Snowling (2000) revealed that central auditory processing abilities of discrimination and auditory recognition are present from infancy. Infants were demonstrated habituation –dishabituation procedures to expose them repetitively to a stimulus (Ramus, Hauser, Miller, Morris, & Mehler, 2000). Results suggested that infants decreased their responses as the stimulus was more frequent (Ramus, Hauser, Miller, Morris, & Mehler, 2000). Nittrouer & Crowther (1998) stated that acoustic information used to detect phonological differences were more prone to be shaped by the environmental input, as well as language, than from the developmental change of the acoustic sensitivity. The researchers suggested that CAP is formed by early environmental input, which includes experiences to the first and second languages (Nittrouer & Crowther, 1998).

Early linguistic experiences were evaluated by Iverson et al. (2001) on the perception of /r/ and /l/ produced by Japanese, German, and American adults. Participants were presented with discrimination tasks. Iverson et al. (2001)’s results of German and American participants were similar to each other, but the results from the Japanese participants were different from the other two groups. Findings revealed that perceptual interference was the primary etiology for the intricacy in learning a new language. Researchers suggested that the more exposure people have in the first language slowly causes a decrease in the auditory sensitivity to slight variation in phonemes in the L1 (Iverson et al., 2001). Iverson et al suggested that for monolingual speakers, the decrease in sensitivity lets the listener ignore minor variations in linguistic production that arise from harmonic distortion, coarticulation, and slight dialectal features between speakers. For second language learners, the decreased sensitivity will restrain them from mastering the new language (Iverson et al., 2001). Iverson et al. (2001) suggest that the auditory capacity to discriminate among non-familiar phonemes is not changed by the reduction of auditory sensitivity; but it is suggested that the decrease occurs in the auditory perception of familiar phonemes from the first language. When the linguistic sound system is different (e.g., English and Japanese), the perceptual changes are not problematic to the second language learner. On the other hand, when the person is trying to learn a new language that contains similar phonemes in both languages (i.e. English and Spanish), then the listener is more likely to have difficulty differentiating between comparable phonemes (Iverson et al., 2001). The perceptual changes seem to be more ingrained as people age, which explains why children learn a new language easier than adults. However, for monolingual speakers, the decrease of auditory perception is an asset, which enables the understanding of verbal communication even when there are dialectal or regional differences in the pronunciation among first language speakers (Iverson et al., 2001). Finding suggests that changes in perceptual processing hinder in small, language definite auditory variations for second language learners. Furthermore, results indicated that the probability that the perceptual changes influence the auditory and linguistic processing, could initiate the early perceptual processes of the central acoustic or early phonetic skills (Iverson et al, 2001).

Theoretical Framework

This study is based on the theoretical framework on perceptual processing. Studies on the acquisition of the second language have revealed that infants can analyze auditory features in spoken language that contained specific information in the first language (Kuhl, 2000). The auditory abilities seem to be derived from the recognition that consonant combinations can be inclined to take place in certain loci in running speech. For example, /st/ is usually heard at the beginning of words. Kuhl (2000) states that infants use this skill to create perceptual maps of auditory features in L1 speech. The researcher states that there is a native language magnet model that states that:

  1. Perceptual maps start to form before the development of word acquisition, which suggests that they are purely auditory in nature.
  2. Maps are language-specific, not universal, which is influenced by the exposure of speech sounds.

Mapping affects a second language learner as the specific filters makes learning an L2 more difficult because the mapping from the first language can be completely different from the rules required by other languages (Kuhl, 2000). Kuhl (2000) states that language learning is an acoustic process, derived by acoustic patterns that are fundamental to speech. These patterns are produced by the collective input from auditory, visual, and kinesthetic stimuli. Bortfield, Morgan, Golinkoff, and Rathblun (2005) agree that since infants lack word knowledge that adults acquire throughout the years, infants have to rely on the phonetic characteristics of speech sounds until they have gained enough knowledge to build their phonemic, morphologic, syntactic, and semantic abilities of words (Bortfield et al., 2005).

Aslin, Pisoni, Hennessy, & Perey (1981) studied the voice onset time (VOT) of infants. The researchers developed examined the VOT during two experiments. The first experiment involved an operant head-turning technique evaluating discriminations along the continuum. The time ranged from -70 msec to +70 msec (Aslin et al., 1981). The study revealed that infants from English-speaking backgrounds exhibited a good VOT continuum on both plus and minus levels of the VOT.   Findings indicate that infants from English speaking backgrounds can discriminate VOT differences that are not phonemic in English (Aslin et al., 1981). Results also revealed that infants demonstrated more sensitivity on the plus region of the continuum than the minus region. In addition, infants’ performances were compared to adults’ performances on the VOT continuum (Aslin et al., 1981). Findings indicated that adults demonstrated more sensitivity on voiced-voiceless part of the plus regions on the VOT continuum, which was not shown in the infants’ data (Aslin et al., 1981).

Fleming (2009) evaluated the relationship of auditory closure and auditory figure-ground with phonological awareness in English language learners. CAP was measured using Palabras Incompletas for auditory closure and Atencion Auditiva for auditory figure-ground. Background noise was used during testing. Results of the study demonstrated that there is a relationship between auditory figure-ground and phonological awareness skills of ELLs learning to read (Fleming, 2009). Research has also shown that auditory training increases phonological skills in school aged children. For example, Moore, Rosenberg, & Coleman (2005) revealed that children increased their phonemic awareness skills by using phonemic discrimination training.

Teachers

A study completed by Carreker, Joshi, & Boulware-Gooden (2010) evaluated teachers’ knowledge in phonemic awareness. There were two groups, 36 pre-service teachers and 38 inservice teachers with teaching experience. Phonemic awareness was evaluated by asking teachers to count phonemes, morphemes, and syllables in 30 words. The study revealed that both groups had difficulty demonstrating thorough knowledge of phonemes (Carreker et al., 2010). Students need to learn that words are made up of phonemes. It is concluded that phonemes in words facilitate students’ phonemic awareness and help them become proficient spellers (Moats, 1994a). However, if teachers do not have the knowledge to teach these skills, it can be detrimental to students. Therefore, if the child is bilingual and has difficulty reading, the regular kg and 1st grade teachers, they would assume that students have the phonetic framework to learn to read.

Another study evaluated the outcome of English language learners in whole class reading instruction. D’Angiulli, Siegel, & Maggi (2004) evaluated whether the literacy curriculum had an effect on English language learners (ELs) and non-English language learners of different socio-economic status. Students received tier 1 and tier 2 interventions. Students from kindergarten through fifth grade received instruction in phonemic awareness, alphabet knowledge, and shared and independent reading and writing for tier 1 intervention. Findings revealed that ELs had lower scores than the non-ELs in the three areas (D’Angiulli et al., 2004). Other researchers evaluated reading studies with ELs, have evaluated instructional approaches mimicking tier 2 interventions (de la Colina et al., 2001; Denton et al., 2004; Gerber et al., 2004; Gunn et al., 2000; Hager & Windmueller, 2001; Leafstedt, Richards & Gerber, 2004; Linan-Thompson et al., 2006; Vaughn et al., 2006). Interventions included phonemic awareness, letter-sound correspondence, decoding, fluency, and comprehension. All the studies revealed that ELs made gains in phonemic awareness, letter-sound recognition, word attack, word reading, fluency, spelling, and comprehension (de la Colina et al., 2001; Denton et al., 2004; Gerber et al., 2004; Gunn et al., 2000; Hager & Windmueller, 2001; Leafstedt, Richards & Gerber, 2004; Linan-Thompson et al., 2006; Vaughn et al., 2006).

SLPs with ELLs

According to ASHA Code of Ethics (ASHA, 2010a), speech-language pathologists need to prescribe competent services that include all the available resources, as well as referral when it is appropriate. According to the Principle of Ethics, Rule C prohibits discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity, which is a stipulation that gets rid of the option of declining treatment without ensuring that the child receives proper services.

Statement of the problem

The relationship between two languages has been discussed in bilingual education and second language acquisition under the term cross-linguistic transfer, which is the influence of one language over the other (Odlin, 1989). Transfer can have a positive effect in that it can enable bilingual children to learn things in the other language. Transfer can likewise have a  negative effect in that language acquisition can be delayed or slowed down and may require more effort from the learners to meet environmental requirements (MacWhinney, 2005; Odlin, 1989). The relationship between the first language and the second language can also be dependent on whether the child has subtractive or additive bilingualism. When a speech-language pathologist is given the information to evaluate a bilingual child, he or she may not have this knowledge of the child’s language development at hand and misdiagnose the child as having an auditory impairment. In addition, there is a lack of research in APD in children. Most of the studies have been researched in adults, or children who are 8 years of age or older.

Significance of the study

Auditory processing has been linked to the development of language and reading. Studies have shown that children with auditory difficulties lead to speech perception problems, which has effects on phonological representation (Dawes & Bishop, 2008).

Auditory processing is the foundation for the synthesis and function of language based abilities. Bailey & Snowling (2002) explained that auditory discrimination enables listeners to make differences between minute modules in acoustic amplitude and frequency that represent different phonemes. Children who show difficulties processing acoustic information in noisy environments are proned to have more difficulty with language development and comprehension, and it is often presented as a general learning impairment (Jergen & Musiek, 2000; Heine & Slone, 2008; Keith, 2004).

Based on the SSW reports (Brandner, Katz, & Goione-Merchant, 2009), when bilingual children are evaluated for auditory processing disorders, they often score poorly in tests of auditory processing. Reports have been made to use caution when evaluating bilingual children because their bilingual environment can impact their performance on the test. Brandner, Katz & Goione-Merchant (2009) related the case studies of three bilingual children. All three bilingual children scored below average range on the SSW compared to the norms. The researchers suggested that bilingual children as the ones in the study can get auditory training to increase their acoustic abilities (Brandner et al., 2009). Mostly audiologists are suggested not to test bilingual children due to the children’s decrease knowledge of English, due to their linguistic background.

 

Purpose of the study

            Auditory processing is the foundation for the synthesis and function of language based abilities. Studies have shown that children with auditory processing difficulties have speech perception problems which affect phonological representation (Dawes & Bishop, 2008).  There is a lack of research on auditory processing in very young children. Most of the studies have been researched on adults or children who are 8 years of age or older.   Additionally, there is very limited research on the auditory processing/auditory phonemic awareness and discrimination abilities of children who are bilingual. Most of the research with bilinguals has been conducted with Mexican American Spanish speakers and Catalan speakers. Besides that, other studies have not evaluated auditory discrimination in children with language impairment who are bilingual. As a result, the present study proposes to compare auditory discrimination of monolingual and bilingual children in quiet and different noise conditions.

Research questions:

  1. Is there a difference between bilingual and monolingual children in their discrimination of minimally pair listening task presented in quiet?

Null Hypothesis: There is no difference between bilingual and monolingual children in their discrimination of minimally pair listening task presented in quiet.

  1. Is there a difference between bilingual and monolingual children in their discrimination of minimally pair listening task presented with cafeteria noise?

Null hypothesis: There is no difference between bilingual and monolingual children in their discrimination of minimally pair listening task presented with cafeteria noise.

  1. Is there a difference between bilingual and monolingual children in their discrimination of minimally pair listening task presented with competing story?

Null hypothesis: There is no difference between bilingual and monolingual children in their discrimination of minimally pair listening task presented with competing story.

  1. Is there a difference between bilingual and monolingual children in their discrimination of minimally pair listening tasks between the two different noise conditions?

Null hypothesis: There is no difference between bilingual and monolingual children in their discrimination of minimally pair listening tasks between the two different noise conditions.

  1. Is there a difference between children who are bilingual proficient and bilingual language learners bilinguals in the discrimination of minimally pair listening tasks presented in quiet, in cafeteria noise, and competing story?

Null hypothesis: There is no difference between children who are bilingual proficient and bilingual language learners in the discrimination of minimally pair listening tasks presented in quiet, in cafeteria noise, and competing story.

  1. Is there a difference between the types of discrimination errors made between children who are bilingual proficient and bilingual language learners in quiet, in cafeteria noise, and competing story?

Null Hypothesis: There is no difference between the types of discrimination errors made between children who are bilingual proficient and bilingual language learners in quiet, in cafeteria noise, and competing story.