Older subjects often experience difficulty understanding conversations in noisy listening conditions, but the reasons for this remain poorly understood. In experiment 1, we used the California Syllable Test (CaST) to measure the ability of younger and older listeners with normal hearing to identify common American-English consonants in syllables presented in noise. The CaST revealed that older subjects showed impaired identification of hard-to-identify consonants in noise and that these impairments reflect both reduced hearing sensitivity and impaired processing of phonological cues within the central nervous system. In experiment 2, older subjects with normal hearing proved to be just as good at understanding sentences as younger subjects with normal hearing. This appears to reflect the fact that existing sentence tests do not require the processing of hard-to-identify consonants. Moreover, older subjects appear superior in using sentence context to piece together the meaning of sentences in difficult listening conditions.
Volume 49 Number 8, 2012
Pages 1277 — 1292
Last Reviewed or Updated Tuesday, December 11, 2012 9:23 AM