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Audiovisual Speech Perception Benefits are Stable from Preschool through Adolescence

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posted on 2024-07-02, 06:50 authored by Liesbeth Gijbels, Jason D. Yeatman, Kaylah Lalonde, Piper Doering, Adrian K.C. Lee

The ability to leverage visual cues in speech perception — especially in noisy backgrounds — is well established from infancy to adulthood. Yet, the developmental trajectory of audiovisual benefits stays a topic of debate. The inconsistency in findings can be attributed to relatively small sample sizes or tasks that are not appropriate for given age groups. We designed an audiovisual speech perception task that was cognitively and linguistically age-appropriate from preschool to adolescence and recruited a large sample (N = 161) of children (age 4–15). We found that even the youngest children show reliable speech perception benefits when provided with visual cues and that these benefits are consistent throughout development when auditory and visual signals match. Individual variability is explained by how the child experiences their speech-in-noise performance rather than the quality of the signal itself. This underscores the importance of visual speech for young children who are regularly in noisy environments like classrooms and playgrounds.

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