Children between the ages of 4 and 7 and adults were tested in free field on speech intelligibility using a four-alternative forced choice paradigm with spondees. Target speech was presented from front (0°); speech or modulated speech-shaped-noise competitors were either in front or on the right (90°). Speech reception thresholds were measured adaptively using a three-down/one-up algorithm. The primary difference between children and adults was seen in elevated thresholds in children in quiet and in all masked conditions. For both age groups, masking was greater with the speech-noise versus speech competitor and with two versus one competitor(s). Masking was also greater when the competitors were located in front compared with the right. The amount of masking did not differ across the two age groups. Spatial release from masking was similar in the two age groups, except for in the one-speech condition, when it was greater in children than adults. These findings suggest that, similar to adults, young children are able to utilize spatial and/or head shadow cues to segregate sounds in noisy environments. The potential utility of the measures used here for studying hearing-impaired children is also discussed.

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