Purpose: Dichotic speech tests are commonly used in audiological assessments of children with suspected listening difficulties, which may have a range of origins. In Sweden, today, one in four primary schoolchildren has a foreign background, which means that a large proportion of children will be assessed through the medium of a language that they speak at school, but it is not the language they regularly speak at home. This study examines dichotic listening ability among children attending primary schools in two cities in southern Sweden with a high proportion of recent immigrants.

Method: In this study, 82 Swedish second and third graders aged 7–9 years with varying Swedish language exposure performed a dichotic listening task, under free recall and directed conditions. They also performed backward digit span as a measure of working memory and crosslinguistic nonword repetition, which is central for language learning.

Results: We found no effect of Swedish language exposure on dichotic listening performance. Right ear was not significantly better than the left ear in either free or directed recall indicating no right ear advantage. Dichotic listening performance was significantly better in free recall compared with directed recall. Dichotic listening was related to working memory capacity. After controlling for working memory capacity, nonword repetition showed a significant positive association with dichotic listening under free recall but not directed recall.

Conclusions: Test language exposure and knowledge do not seem to influence primary school children's performance on a dichotic digit task. Performance was related to working memory capacity and the complex skill of perceiving, coding, and producing novel words in a nonword repetition task. In clinical practice, both tests of working memory capacity and crosslinguistic nonword repetition may inform the interpretation of dichotic listening results in children with diverse language backgrounds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-307
Number of pages10
JournalPerspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups
Issue number2
Early online date2023 Feb 14
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Psychology


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