Original Research

Devising a development test of auditory perception: Problems and prospects

Arnold Abramovitz
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Journal of the South African Speech and Hearing Association: Vol 18, No 1 | a419 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v18i1.419 | © 2019 Arnold Abramovitz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 November 2016 | Published: 31 December 1971

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Arnold Abramovitz, Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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It is certain that many children whose auditory perception is queried by audiologists, speech therapists, educationists and psychologists elude the diagnostic screens presently available in each of these disciplines.
The need for a qualitative and quantitative psychological assessment of the child's auditory abilities and disabilities led to the development of a test which was intended to evaluate the following functions:(a) Recognition of environmental sounds, (b) Auditory figure-ground discrimination, (c) Speech-sound discrimination (phonemic and intonational) and (d) Tonal pattern discrimination (pitch, loudness, duration and interval). It was not intended to investigate threshold phenomena as such but rather to supplement and complement pure-tone and speech audiometry. The test was applied to 205 children, aged five to ten years, drawn from a normal school population, and 232 children with difficulties and handicaps varying both in degree and kind. 
Only the first two sub-tests were found to be clinically and experimentally viable, and data for the curtailed test are presented. The following results are noteworthy:
(1) The test measures functions which are positively related to both age and intelligence.
(2) Brain-injured, retarded and emotionally disturbed children generally test low on auditory figure-ground discrimination; this vulnerability is most likely due to perseveration.
(3) Previously unsuspected peripheral hearing losses may sometimes be detected by the use of the test. On the other hand, some children said to have high degrees of hearing loss test at or above their age-level.
(4) Many deaf and hard-of-hearing children test higher without their hearing-aids; this is probably due to amplification being achieved at the cost of distortion.
(5) Children of average intelligence with reading and/or spelling difficulties often test low on auditory figure-ground discrimination.
(6) Blind children who have received auditory training are equal to sighted children in recognition of environmental sounds, but superior in auditory figure-ground discrimination. This does not, however, necessarily signify superior auditory perception as such on the part of the blind.
In general it is concluded that the development of tests of auditory perception could add significantly to the psycho-educational assessment of both "normal" and handicapped children.


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