PURPOSE: This study focuses on 7- to 9-year-old children attending primary school in Swedish areas of low socioeconomic status, where most children's school language is their second language. The aim was to better understand what factors influence these children's narrative listening comprehension both in an ideal listening condition (in quiet) and for the primary school classroom, a typical listening condition (with multitalker babble noise).

METHOD: A total of 86 typically developing 7- to 9-year-olds performed a narrative listening comprehension test (Lyssna, Förstå och Minnas [LFM]; English translation: Listen, Comprehend, and Remember) in two listening conditions: quiet and multitalker babble noise. They also performed the crosslinguistic nonword repetition test and a digit span backwards (DSB) test. A predictive statistical model including these factors, the children's degree of school language exposure, parental education level, and age was derived.

RESULTS: Listening condition had the strongest predictive value for LFM performance, followed by school language exposure and nonword repetition accuracy. Parental education level was also a significant predictor. There was a significant three-way interaction effect between listening condition, age, and DSB performance.

CONCLUSIONS: Multitalker babble noise has a negative effect on children's narrative listening comprehension. The effect of multitalker babble noise could be explained by age differences in the ability to allocate working memory capacity during the narrative listening comprehension task, suggesting that younger children may be more vulnerable for missing information when listening in background noise than their older peers.

SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL: https://doi.org/10.23641/asha.25209248.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2024 Feb 16

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Psychology
  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


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