Children learn language from hearing it around them, but much of the language they hear isn’t perfectly clear. Some children hear degraded speech signals through a cochlear implant; others may hear speech from speakers with unfamiliar accents. And nearly all children hear a great deal of their language input in the presence of background noise, including competing speech.

Recent work suggests that children are affected by background noise much more than are adults, limiting the extent to which they can benefit from the language input they receive, and leading to a catch-22: young children who are still trying to learn language have a greater need for understanding speech in noise, but are simultaneously less equipped to do so. Similarly, these children are particularly in need of high-quality speech signals; yet at least for some children, the speech they hear can be quite degraded. I will be discussing recent findings on toddler’s ability to recognize known words and learn new ones from signals that are either degraded (as through a cochlear implant), or occur in the presence of multiple people talking simultaneously.