Background Noise Can Impair Language Development in Children
Even mild background noise in the home -- such as other children playing or watching television
-- can impair a baby's ability to pick up language, researchers report.
"This research reaffirms how important it is for a child to see the face of
a person while hearing him or her speak," George Hollich, an assistant professor
of psychological sciences at Purdue University, said in a prepared statement. "This
is the first study to show how children are easily distracted when the background
noise is at the same loudness as the person talking to the child. We found
that even soft noise can be a problem."
He and his colleagues conducted four
studies to determine how environmental noises affected language development
in 116 7-month-old infants. They found that background noise can pose the same
problems for these children as it does for hearing-challenged older adults in the
middle of a noisy cocktail party.
"Older adults who are hard of hearing use their
other senses, such as vision, to better understand speech. We thought this might
be what infants do when they are in a noisy environment. Struggling to hear can be
annoying for adults, so just imagine how distracting it is for infants who are trying
to learn a language," said
Hollich, director of Purdue's Infant Language Laboratory.
"Unlike the printed word, speech doesn't use commas, spaces or periods to separate
words and concepts. If there is more than one source of speech, it's especially hard
for the infant to know when one word ends and another begins. That is why infants
need to match what they hear with the movements of the speaker's face," he said.
Sources: Forbes.com, “SHHH! Baby’s Learning” -
The study was published in the June issue of Child Development.