How difficult is difficult? Speech perception in noise in the elderly hearing impaired

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Perception of speech in the presence of competing multitalker noise is difficult for most individuals with sensory hearing loss, and in particular, for the elderly hearing impaired. Elderly people frequently report that these difficulties are poorly compensated for by hearing aids, albeit the algorithms and technologies aiming to improve speech perception in noise. The aim of the current study was therefore to assess competing speech signals processing by measuring the amount of signal to noise ratio (SNR) loss experienced by elderly hearing impaired individuals and their performance in dichotic listening tests. Methods: Speech in multitalker babble noise and dichotic listening were assessed in older hearing impaired individuals and in young normal-hearing adults. Results: The average dichotic scores in the elderly group were substantially and significantly lower compared with the scores of the younger group with a significant right ear advantage (higher accuracy in reporting words arriving at the right ear than words arriving at the left ear) in the elderly group. Speech identification in noise in the older group was significantly poorer than in the younger group (SNR loss: 10 dB). Conclusions: The poor performance in the elderly hearing impaired group highlights the difficulties faced by hearing impaired older adults in demanding listening environments. Our results suggest that it may be unreasonable to expect that elderly hearing impaired individuals may fully understand speech in multitalker environments even when hearing aids are used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-316
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2014


  • Dicotic listening
  • Elderly
  • Hearing impaired
  • SNR loss
  • Speech perception in noise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology


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