WARF: P02236US

Method and System for Rapid and Reliable Testing of Speech Intelligibility in Children


Ruth Litovsky

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing an improved system for evaluating a child's ability to hear and understand speech.
OVERVIEWIn order to detect and treat hearing problems as early as possible, evaluating speech intelligibility – the ability to hear and understand speech – is particularly important in children. However, current hearing tests for children do not sufficiently engage children (who have short attention spans), do not allow evaluation under real world conditions, and do not provide a clinically reliable means to link the child’s environmental experience to the audiology clinic.
THE INVENTIONA UW-Madison researcher has developed an improved system for testing the speech intelligibility of a child in a simulated noisy environment. A set of spoken target words is presented to a child in the presence and absence of competing sounds of different types and at varied locations. The child responds to the target word by selecting a picture representation of the word from among several choices. Optionally, positive or negative reinforcement may be provided. The sound level at which the target words are presented may vary adaptively according to the child’s responses. The test is repeated using several spoken target words under many types and locations of competing sounds, and the child’s responses are recorded in a database. This system should predict a child’s ability to function in a complex environment, such as a classroom.
  • Evaluating the ability to hear and understand speech in children
  • Allows analysis of the effects of competing sounds on speech intelligibility
  • Simulates a child’s normal classroom environment
  • Interactive – the child responds by choosing a picture
  • Rapid and reliable
  • Can be implemented as a computer game that holds the attention of children for up to one hour
  • Useful for children as young as four years of age
  • Target words used in the test are first determined to be within the child’s vocabulary
  • Could be used to evaluate effectiveness of bilateral versus unilateral cochlear implants
  • Enables evaluation of the effect of competing sounds on spatial release from masking (the decreased speech intelligibility observed when target and competing sounds are spatially separated)
  • Results available for further analysis by a user to produce customized output
For More Information About the Inventors
Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Mark Staudt at or 608-960-9845.
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