Sound-in-noise recognition: An international study on a language-independent school-entry hearing screening test
Hearing loss is one of the most common congenital impairments, occurring in 1 to 3 per 1000 newborns. The incidence of acquired hearing loss at later age is not exactly known. Therefore, in 2012, the European Federation of Audiology Societies formally recommended the implementation of preschool and school-age hearing screening, in addition to the systematic hearing screening of newborns to detect those children and prevent secondary impairments, such as language disorders. With systematic screening and data registration, results of school-age and newborn hearing screening databases could be linked, allowing accurate quantification of the incidence of acquired childhood hearing loss. When using the same reference test across European countries, between-country comparisons will be possible as well.
At this moment, research is being conducted to develop a language independent sound-in-noise test, the Sound Ear Check (SEC). This is an automated adaptive self-test on tablet based on recognition of masked ecological sounds. The SEC has already been evaluated in adults, and shows promising results. A reference curve with a steep slope of 18%/dB was obtained, resulting in a test with a high measurement precision of 1 dB. Significant correlations with both pure tone thresholds (r = 0.70) and the Digit Triplet Test (r = 0.79) speech-in-noise test were found in adults. Sensitivity and specificity values of about 80% were obtained.
The current follow-up study aims to investigate the feasibility of the test in young school-age children, at the age of school-entry (5-6 years) and to investigate the test’s reliability as well as its sensitivity and specificity for both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. In collaboration with study partners from different European countries, the language- and culture-independency was estimated as well.