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Effects of hearing loss on speech recognition under distracting conditions and working memory in the elderly

Authors Na W, Kim G, Kim G, Han W, Kim J

Received 31 May 2017

Accepted for publication 6 July 2017

Published 1 August 2017 Volume 2017:12 Pages 1175—1181

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S142962

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Amy Norman

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker


Wondo Na,1 Gibbeum Kim,1 Gungu Kim,1 Woojae Han,2 Jinsook Kim2

1Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Graduate School, 2Division of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Research Institute of Audiology and Speech Pathology, College of Natural Sciences, Hallym University, Chuncheon, Republic of Korea

Purpose: The current study aimed to evaluate hearing-related changes in terms of speech-in-noise processing, fast-rate speech processing, and working memory; and to identify which of these three factors is significantly affected by age-related hearing loss.
Methods: One hundred subjects aged 65–84 years participated in the study. They were classified into four groups ranging from normal hearing to moderate-to-severe hearing loss. All the participants were tested for speech perception in quiet and noisy conditions and for speech perception with time alteration in quiet conditions. Forward- and backward-digit span tests were also conducted to measure the participants’ working memory.
Results: 1) As the level of background noise increased, speech perception scores systematically decreased in all the groups. This pattern was more noticeable in the three hearing-impaired groups than in the normal hearing group. 2) As the speech rate increased faster, speech perception scores decreased. A significant interaction was found between speed of speech and hearing loss. In particular, 30% of compressed sentences revealed a clear differentiation between moderate hearing loss and moderate-to-severe hearing loss. 3) Although all the groups showed a longer span on the forward-digit span test than the backward-digit span test, there was no significant difference as a function of hearing loss.
Conclusion: The degree of hearing loss strongly affects the speech recognition of babble-masked and time-compressed speech in the elderly but does not affect the working memory. We expect these results to be applied to appropriate rehabilitation strategies for hearing-impaired elderly who experience difficulty in communication.

Keywords: age-related hearing loss, speech perception, speech in noise, fast rate speech, short-term working memory

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