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J Acoust Soc Am. 2004 Apr;115(4):1808-17.

Effects of stimulus and noise rate variability on speech perception by younger and older adults.

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  • 1Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.


The present experiments examine the effects of listener age and hearing sensitivity on the ability to understand temporally altered speech in quiet when the proportion of a sentence processed by time compression is varied. Additional conditions in noise investigate whether or not listeners are affected by alterations in the presentation rate of background speech babble, relative to the presentation rate of the target speech signal. Younger and older adults with normal hearing and with mild-to-moderate sensorineural hearing losses served as listeners. Speech stimuli included sentences, syntactic sets, and random-order words. Presentation rate was altered via time compression applied to the entire stimulus or to selected phrases within the stimulus. Older listeners performed more poorly than younger listeners in most conditions involving time compression, and their performance decreased progressively with the proportion of the stimulus that was processed with time compression. Older listeners also performed more poorly than younger listeners in all noise conditions, but both age groups demonstrated better performance in conditions incorporating a mismatch in the presentation rate between target signal and background babble compared to conditions with matched rates. The age effects in quiet are consistent with the generalized slowing hypothesis of aging. Performance patterns in noise tentatively support the notion that altered rates of speech signal and background babble may provide a cue to enhance auditory figure-ground perception by both younger and older listeners.

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