Auditory and cognitive contributions to hearing-impaired listeners’ spatial speech recognition performance
This study investigated the auditory and cognitive processes affecting speech recognition in spatially complex, multi-talker situations. Twenty- three elderly hearing-impaired (HI) listeners were tested on a number of competing-speech tasks, a measure of monaural spectral ripple discrimination, a measure of binaural temporal fine structure (TFS) sensitivity, and two cognitive measures indexing working memory and attention. All auditory test stimuli were spectrally shaped to restore (partial) audibility for each listener on each listening task. Eight younger normal- hearing (NH) listeners served as a control group. Data analyses revealed that the chosen auditory and cognitive measures were unable to predict speech recognition when the target and maskers were separated along the front-back dimension. When the competing talkers were separated along the left-right dimension, however, speech recognition was correlated with the measures of attention and binaural TFS sensitivity as well as with low- frequency hearing thresholds. Altogether, these results support the notion that both bottom-up and top-down deficits are responsible for the impaired functioning of elderly HI listeners in cocktail party-like situations.
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