Noisy Homes Can Slow a Toddler's Vocabulary

Noisy Homes Can Slow a Toddler's Vocabulary

Noisy Homes Can Slow a Toddler's Vocabulary

Limit background chatter when teaching new words, study says

SOURCE: Child Development, news release, July 21, 2016

THURSDAY, July 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Background noise can hamper a toddler's ability to learn new words, a new study suggests.

"Modern homes are filled with noisy distractions such as TV, radio and people talking that could affect how children learn words at early ages," said study leader Brianna McMillan.

"Our study suggests that adults should be aware of the amount of background speech in the environment when they're interacting with young children," said McMillan, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Researchers from the university assessed the ability of 106 children, aged 22 to 30 months, to learn new words. They found they were more successful when their surroundings were quiet than when there was background noise.

But providing the children with additional language cues helped them overcome the detrimental effects of a noisy environment, according to the study. The findings appear July 21 in the journal Child Development.

"Learning words is an important skill that provides a foundation for children's ability to achieve academically," McMillan said in a journal news release.

Because of urban settings and crowding, homes in lower-income areas tend to have higher-than-normal noise levels, according to background notes with the study.

"Hearing new words in fluent speech without a lot of background noise before trying to learn what objects the new words corresponded to may help very young children master new vocabulary," said study co-author Jenny Saffran, a professor of psychology.

"But when the environment is noisy, drawing young children's attention to the sounds of the new word may help them compensate," she added.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about speech and language development.

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