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J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2011 Jun;54(3):944-58. doi: 10.1044/1092-4388(2010/10-0069). Epub 2010 Nov 8.

Older adults expend more listening effort than young adults recognizing speech in noise.

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Centre de Recherche, Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, Quebec, Canada.



Listening in noisy situations is a challenging experience for many older adults. The authors hypothesized that older adults exert more listening effort compared with young adults. Listening effort involves the attention and cognitive resources required to understand speech. The purpose was (a) to quantify the amount of listening effort that young and older adults expend when they listen to speech in noise and (b) to examine the relationship between self-reported listening effort and objective measures.


A dual-task paradigm was used to objectively evaluate the listening effort of 25 young and 25 older adults. The primary task involved a closed-set sentence-recognition test, and the secondary task involved a vibrotactile pattern recognition test. Participants performed each task separately and concurrently under 2 experimental conditions: (a) when the level of noise was the same and (b) when baseline word recognition performance did not differ between groups.


Older adults expended more listening effort than young adults under both experimental conditions. Subjective estimates of listening effort did not correlate with any of the objective dual-task measures.


Older adults require more processing resources to understand speech in noise. Dual-task measures and subjective ratings tap different aspects of listening effort.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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