13 March 1999

Speech understanding test developed for hearing-impaired children

A University of Queensland researcher has developed the first known test of how well hearing-impaired children understand everyday speech.

The test was developed as part of Dr Joseph Kei's PhD with the University's Speech Pathology and Audiology Department.

According to Dr Kei, children with suspected or actual hearing impairment are usually tested for how well they can hear sounds of varying volume or single words rather than connected speech.

He said these tests, while useful, did not give a comprehensive enough assessment of the child's rehabilitation and special education needs.

Dr Kei, a lecturer in the Department, said parents and teachers commonly reported that while some children with hearing impairment could hear certain sounds, they did not seem to understand everyday speech or instructions.

For his study, Dr Kei played back audio news reports to a group of 82 Cantonese-speaking children (from normally hearing to profoundly hearing impaired). Hearing-impaired children listened through their hearing aids. Each child provided a rating of how well he or she had understood the broadcasts.

Dr Kei then asked the children questions about the report to help establish their understanding.

To conduct the study, Dr Kei modified an existing test technique for adults with hearing impairment to children aged 11 years and over.

Modification included selecting simpler news reports of interest to young children, he said.

Dr Kei said the test could be adapted for use among children of any language background.

He was recently awarded a $13,131 University of Queensland Early Career Researcher Grant (ECRG) to develop a test of connected speech understanding for Australian children aged between seven and eight years.

For the project, he will develop an interactive test using state-of-the-art CD ROM technology in which connected speech passages will be played in the form of cartoons on the screen.
The University's Research Committee allocated $300,000 for the ECRG scheme for 1999. The new program has been designed to attract, keep and nurture the very best researchers.
For more information, contact Dr Kei (telephone 07 3365 2824).