Speech Perception in Older Adults: An Interplay of Hearing, Cognition, and Learning?

Liat Shechter Shvartzman, Limor Lavie, Karen Banai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Older adults with age-related hearing loss exhibit substantial individual differences in speech perception in adverse listening conditions. We propose that the ability to rapidly adapt to changes in the auditory environment (i.e., perceptual learning) is among the processes contributing to these individual differences, in addition to the cognitive and sensory processes that were explored in the past. Seventy older adults with age-related hearing loss participated in this study. We assessed the relative contribution of hearing acuity, cognitive factors (working memory, vocabulary, and selective attention), rapid perceptual learning of time-compressed speech, and hearing aid use to the perception of speech presented at a natural fast rate (fast speech), speech embedded in babble noise (speech in noise), and competing speech (dichotic listening). Speech perception was modeled as a function of the other variables. For fast speech, age [odds ratio (OR) = 0.79], hearing acuity (OR = 0.62), pre-learning (baseline) perception of time-compressed speech (OR = 1.47), and rapid perceptual learning (OR = 1.36) were all significant predictors. For speech in noise, only hearing and pre-learning perception of time-compressed speech were significant predictors (OR = 0.51 and OR = 1.53, respectively). Consistent with previous findings, the severity of hearing loss and auditory processing (as captured by pre-learning perception of time-compressed speech) was strong contributors to individual differences in fast speech and speech in noise perception. Furthermore, older adults with good rapid perceptual learning can use this capacity to partially offset the effects of age and hearing loss on the perception of speech presented at fast conversational rates. Our results highlight the potential contribution of dynamic processes to speech perception.

Original languageEnglish
Article number816864
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume13
DOIs
StatePublished - 17 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Mor Ben-Dor for her help in the data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Shechter Shvartzman, Lavie and Banai.

Keywords

  • age-related hearing loss
  • aging
  • degraded speech
  • hearing aids
  • perceptual learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)

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