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Clin Neurophysiol. 2003 Jul;114(7):1332-43.

Effects of age and age-related hearing loss on the neural representation of speech cues.

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Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Washington, 1417 NE 42nd St. Seattle, WA 98115, USA.



To examine the effects of aging and age-related hearing loss on the perception and neural representation of a time-varying speech cue.


P1, N1 and P2 cortical responses were recorded from younger and older normal-hearing adults, as well as older adults with age-related hearing loss. Synthetic speech tokens representing 10 ms increments along a /ba/-/pa/ voice-onset-time (VOT) continuum were used to evoke the responses. Each participant's ability to discriminate the speech tokens was also assessed.


Compared with younger participants, older adults with and without hearing loss had more difficulty discriminating 10 ms VOT contrasts. In addition, both older groups elicited abnormal neural response patterns. There were no significant age-related findings for P1 latency; however, N1 latencies were prolonged for both older groups in response to stimuli with increased VOT durations. Also, P2 latencies were delayed for both older groups. The presence of age-related hearing loss resulted in a significant increase in N1 amplitude in response to voiceless stimuli.


Aging and age-related hearing loss alter temporal response properties in the central auditory system. Because both older groups had difficulty discriminating these same speech stimuli, we conclude that some of the perceptual difficulties described by older adults might be due to age-related changes regulating excitatory and inhibitory processes.


Some of the speech understanding difficulties expressed by elderly adults may be related to impaired temporal precision in the aging auditory system. This might explain why older adults frequently complain that wearing a hearing aid makes speech louder, but does not necessarily improve their ability to understand speech.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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