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Otol Neurotol. 2014 Sep;35(8):1301-5. doi: 10.1097/MAO.0000000000000489.

Feasibility study to quantify the auditory and social environment of older adults using a digital language processor.

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  • 1*University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; †The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, District of Columbia; ‡Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; §Center on Aging and Health, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions; and ∥Departments of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Geriatric Medicine, and Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.



To investigate the feasibility of using a digital language processor (DLP) to objectively quantify the auditory and social environment of older adults.


Thirty-seven participants aged 64 to 91 years residing in a retirement community were asked to wear a DLP to record their auditory and language environment during 1 waking day. Recordings were analyzed with specialized software to derive quantitative estimates such as the number of spoken words heard and percentage of time spent around meaningful speech versus television/radio.


Adequate DLP recordings that began before 10 AM and lasted for 10 hours or greater were collected from 24 participants. The mean duration of recording was 13 hours and 13 minutes, and individuals spent a mean of 26.7% (range, 4%-58%) of their waking day near a television or other electronic sounds. The projected mean word count over a maximum of 16 hours was 33,141 with nearly a 14-fold range between the lowest and highest observed values (range, 5120-77,882).


High-quality objective data on the auditory environment of older adults can be feasibly measured with the DLP. Findings from this study may guide future studies investigating auditory and language outcomes in older adults.

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