SoundSpace Online

Auditory Development in Childhood

Some structures in the ear change their physical size as children get older. For example, the pinna and auditory canal grow larger with age. For children with hearing loss, it is both possible and important to measure these changes with age, because of a phenomenon called “resonance”, which allows the ear to actually amplify sounds coming into it. Please visit this Resonance Hearing Clinic website page for more information about resonance in the ear. For children with hearing loss, this needs to be measured regularly so that the hearing aid settings can be individualised, to provide the best possible amplification.

Very important changes also happen in the auditory pathways during childhood.  Although structures like the cochlea are complete at birth, the auditory pathways and auditory areas of the brain are still quite immature.  As children grow, “myelination” of auditory pathways and cortex occurs, allowing information to be transmitted through the nervous system more quickly and efficiently, as illustrated below.
 



               


Research shows clearly that children’s ability to attend to an auditory signal (such as focusing on the teacher’s voice when another student is chatting to you), or the ability to accurately discriminate speech in high levels of background noise, are relatively poor in infants and preschoolers, but gradually improve over time.  In fact, recent research indicates that the auditory system still continues to improve its speed and efficiency through adolescence.