How bilinguals listen in noise: Linguistic and non-linguistic factors

Jennifer Krizman, Ann R. Bradlow, Silvia Siu Yin Lam, Nina Kraus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Bilinguals are known to perform worse than monolinguals on speech-in-noise tests. However, the mechanisms underlying this difference are unclear. By varying the amount of linguistic information available in the target stimulus across five auditory-perception-in-noise tasks, we tested if differences in language-independent (sensory/cognitive) or language-dependent (extracting linguistic meaning) processing could account for this disadvantage. We hypothesized that language-dependent processing differences underlie the bilingual disadvantage and predicted that it would manifest on perception-in-noise tasks that use linguistic stimuli. We found that performance differences between bilinguals and monolinguals varied with the linguistic processing demands of each task: early, high-proficiency, Spanish-English bilingual adolescents performed worse than English monolingual adolescents when perceiving sentences, similarly when perceiving words, and better when perceiving tones in noise. This pattern suggests that bottlenecks in language-dependent processing underlie the bilingual disadvantage while language-independent perception-in-noise processes are enhanced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)834-843
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • adolescence
  • cognitive processing
  • listening in noise
  • sensory processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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