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Senescent Decline in Verbal-Emotion Identification by Older Hearing-Impaired Listeners – Do Hearing Aids Help?

Authors Ruiz R, Fontan L, Fillol H, Füllgrabe C

Received 12 September 2020

Accepted for publication 14 October 2020

Published 3 November 2020 Volume 2020:15 Pages 2073—2081

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S281469

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker


Robert Ruiz,1 Lionel Fontan,2 Hugo Fillol,3,4 Christian Füllgrabe5

1Laboratoire de Recherche en Audiovisuel (LARA-SEPPIA), Université Toulouse II Jean Jaurès, Toulouse, France; 2Archean LABS, Montauban, France; 3Service d’Oto-Rhino-Laryngologie, d’Oto-Neurologie et d’ORL Pédiatrique, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse, Toulouse, France; 4Ecole d’Audioprothèse de Cahors, Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France; 5School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

Correspondence: Christian Füllgrabe
School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Ashby Road, Loughborough LE11 3TU, UK
Tel +44 1509 223009
Email c.fullgrabe@lboro.ac.uk

Purpose: To assess the ability of older-adult hearing-impaired (OHI) listeners to identify verbal expressions of emotions, and to evaluate whether hearing-aid (HA) use improves identification performance in those listeners.
Methods: Twenty-nine OHI listeners, who were experienced bilateral-HA users, participated in the study. They listened to a 20-sentence-long speech passage rendered with six different emotional expressions (“happiness”, “pleasant surprise”, “sadness”, “anger”, “fear”, and “neutral”). The task was to identify the emotion portrayed in each version of the passage. Listeners completed the task twice in random order, once unaided, and once wearing their own bilateral HAs. Seventeen young-adult normal-hearing (YNH) listeners were also tested unaided as controls.
Results: Most YNH listeners (89.2%) correctly identified emotions compared to just over half of the OHI listeners (58.7%). Within the OHI group, verbal emotion identification was significantly correlated with age, but not with audibility-related factors. The number of OHI listeners who were able to correctly identify the different emotions did not significantly change when HAs were worn (54.8%).
Conclusion: In line with previous investigations using shorter speech stimuli, there were clear age differences in the recognition of verbal emotions, with OHI listeners showing a significant reduction in unaided verbal-emotion identification performance that progressively declined with age across older adulthood. Rehabilitation through HAs did not provide compensation for the impaired ability to perceive emotions carried by speech sounds.

Keywords: verbal-emotion identification, older adulthood, age-related hearing loss, hearing aids, speech prosody

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