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J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2000 Feb;43(1):217-28.

Frequency and temporal resolution in elderly listeners with good and poor word recognition.

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University of Maryland, College Park, USA.


There is a subgroup of elderly listeners with hearing loss who can be characterized by exceptionally poor speech understanding. This study examined the hypothesis that the poor speech-understanding performance of some elderly listeners is associated with disproportionate deficits in temporal resolution and frequency resolution, especially for complex signals. Temporal resolution, as measured by gap detection, and frequency resolution, as measured by the critical ratio, were examined in older listeners with normal hearing, older listeners with hearing loss and good speech-recognition performance, and older listeners with hearing loss and poor speech-recognition performance. Listener performance was evaluated for simple and complex stimuli and for tasks of added complexity. In addition, syllable recognition was assessed in quiet and noise. The principal findings were that older listeners with hearing loss and poor word-recognition performance did not perform differently from older listeners with hearing loss and good word recognition on the temporal resolution measures nor on the spectral resolution measures for relatively simple stimuli. However, frequency resolution was compromised for listeners with poor word-recognition abilities when targets were presented in the context of complex signals. Group differences observed for syllable recognition in quiet were eliminated in the noise condition. Taken together, the findings support the hypothesis that unusual deficits in word-recognition performance among elderly listeners were associated with poor spectral resolution for complex signals.

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