WHY DO YOUNGER ADULTS COMPREHEND MORE WHEN LISTENING TO CONVERSATIONS IN NOISY ENVIRONMENTS AND WHEN OTHER PEOPLE ARE TALKING?

  • M. Avivi-Reich
  • M. Daneman
  • B. A. Schneider

Abstract

Age-related deterioration in one’s ability to comprehend speech plays a primary role in the difficulties many older adults experience when communicating, especially in a multi-talker auditory scene, which increases the complexity of both the perceptual and cognitive processes required for comprehension. These age-related difficulties could reflect age-related declines in the auditory, cognitive, and/or linguistic processes that support speech comprehension. In a recent line of studies, we asked younger and older participants to listen to conversations played against a babble background noise and to answer questions regarding their content. Individual hearing differences were compensated for by creating the same degree of difficulty in identifying individual words in babble. In addition, the precedence effect was used to create a perceived separation in order to eliminate interaural signal-to-noise (SNR) differences. The results show that once the SNRs are adjusted, no significant differences in speech comprehension were found between younger and older participants.

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