Behavioral assessment of hearing in 2 to 4 year-old children: A two-interval, observer-based procedure using conditioned play-based responses

Angela Yarnell Bonino, Lori J Leibold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Collecting reliable behavioral data from toddlers and preschoolers is challenging. As a result, there are significant gaps in our understanding of human auditory development for these age groups. This paper describes an observer-based procedure for measuring hearing sensitivity with a two-interval, two-alternative forced-choice paradigm. Young children are trained to perform a play-based, motor response (e.g., putting a block in a bucket) whenever they hear a target signal. An experimenter observes the child’s behavior and makes a judgment about whether the signal was presented during the first or second observation interval; the experimenter is blinded to the true signal interval, so this judgment is based solely on the child’s behavior. These procedures were used to test 2 to 4 year-olds (n = 33) with no known hearing problems. The signal was a 1,000 Hz warble tone presented in quiet, and the signal level was adjusted to estimate a threshold corresponding to 71%-correct detection. A valid threshold was obtained for 82% of children. These results indicate that the two-interval procedure is both feasible and reliable for use with toddlers and preschoolers. The two-interval, observer-based procedure described in this paper is a powerful tool for evaluating hearing in young children because it guards against response bias on the part of the experimenter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere54788
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number119
Publication statusPublished - Jan 23 2017



  • Audiology
  • Auditory development
  • Behavior
  • Behavioral assessments
  • Children
  • Hearing
  • Issue 119
  • Perception
  • Preschooler
  • Psychophysicss
  • Tone detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)

Cite this