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Challenging communication environments, in which listeners must recognize and comprehend the target speech of interest amongst acoustic background competition, are prevalent in everyday life. Older adults with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), which occurs due to inner ear or neural pathway damage, are known to have significant difficulty hearing in such environments, and especially those with competing background talkers present (such as in noisy restaurants). Previous work in the Speech and Auditory Research (SpAR) laboratory has indicated that older adults with SNHL have deficits using prosodic contour differences (i.e., intonation differences) between target and masker speech to improve target speech recognition, even when using prescriptive amplification (i.e., individualized hearing aid amplification). This study aims to build upon these previous findings and determine whether the inability to take advantage of prosodic contour cues in multi-talker backgrounds for older adults with SNHL is related to reductions in speech audibility. In this project, young adults with normal hearing (HL), or have hearing thresholds within normal limits, were presented with speech that had been processed to match the audibility profile of older adults with SNHL (i.e., speech was presented via a simulated hearing loss program). The younger NH participants were presented with speech that matched the average frequency-dependent audibility of the older adults with SNHL from a previous experiment (Wasiuk et al., 2020). Prosodic contour cues of target and masker speech were systematically manipulated to be flat, normal, or exaggerated. Target speech was presented with two competing talkers in the background (i.e., two-talker maskers). It was hypothesized that a simple loss of audibility, as experienced by older adult listeners with SNHL, can significantly impair a young NH listener's target speech recognition in a multi-talker environment. This research has important implications for older adults in real-world multi-talker environments, and may contribute to the improvement of hearing aid amplification technology to help those with SNHL communicate more effectively in their everyday lives.

Symposium Date

Fall 12-1-2012


speech perception, hearing loss, prosody



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

The Influence of Reduced Speech Signal Audibility on Masked-Speech Recognition for Young Adults with Normal Hearing

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