A dynamic auditory-cognitive system supports speech-in-noise perception in older adults

Samira Anderson, Travis White-Schwoch, Alexandra Parbery-Clark, Nina Kraus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

106 Scopus citations

Abstract

Understanding speech in noise is one of the most complex activities encountered in everyday life, relying on peripheral hearing, central auditory processing, and cognition. These abilities decline with age, and so older adults are often frustrated by a reduced ability to communicate effectively in noisy environments. Many studies have examined these factors independently; in the last decade, however, the idea of an auditory-cognitive system has emerged, recognizing the need to consider the processing of complex sounds in the context of dynamic neural circuits. Here, we used structural equation modeling to evaluate the interacting contributions of peripheral hearing, central processing, cognitive ability, and life experiences to understanding speech in noise. We recruited 120 older adults (ages 55-79) and evaluated their peripheral hearing status, cognitive skills, and central processing. We also collected demographic measures of life experiences, such as physical activity, intellectual engagement, and musical training. In our model, central processing and cognitive function predicted a significant proportion of variance in the ability to understand speech in noise. To a lesser extent, life experience predicted hearing-in-noise ability through modulation of brainstem function. Peripheral hearing levels did not significantly contribute to the model. Previous musical experience modulated the relative contributions of cognitive ability and lifestyle factors to hearing in noise. Our models demonstrate the complex interactions required to hear in noise and the importance of targeting cognitive function, lifestyle, and central auditory processing in the management of individuals who are having difficulty hearing in noise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-32
Number of pages15
JournalHearing research
Volume300
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'A dynamic auditory-cognitive system supports speech-in-noise perception in older adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this