Children localize sounds using binaural cues when navigating everyday auditory environments. While sensitivity to binaural cues reaches maturity by 8–10 years of age, large individual variability has been observed in the just-noticeable-difference (JND) thresholds for interaural time difference (ITD) among children in this age range. To understand the development of binaural sensitivity beyond JND thresholds, the “looking-while-listening” paradigm was adapted in this study to reveal the real-time decision-making behavior during ITD processing. Children ages 8–14 years with normal hearing (NH) and a group of young NH adults were tested. This novel paradigm combined eye gaze tracking with behavioral psychoacoustics to estimate ITD JNDs in a two-alternative forced-choice discrimination task. Results from simultaneous eye gaze recordings during ITD processing suggested that children had adult-like ITD JNDs, but they demonstrated immature decision-making strategies. While the time course of arriving at the initial fixation and final decision in providing a judgment of the ITD direction was similar, children exhibited more uncertainty than adults during decision-making. Specifically, children made more fixation changes, particularly when tested using small ITD magnitudes, between the target and non-target response options prior to finalizing a judgment. These findings suggest that, while children may exhibit adult-like sensitivity to ITDs, their eye gaze behavior reveals that the processing of this binaural cue is still developing through late childhood.
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- binaural hearing
- interaural time difference
- eye gaze
- auditory processing