Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Major Professor

Jennifer J. Lister, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Richard H. Wilson, Ph.D.

Keywords

Temporal resolution, Gap detection, Speech in noise, Speech perception, Sensorineural hearing loss, Presbycusis

Abstract

The ability to resolve rapid intensity and frequency fluctuations in sound is important for understanding speech, especially in real-world environments that include background noise and reverberation. Older listeners often complain of difficulties understanding speech in such real-world environments. One factor thought to influence speech understanding in noisy and reverberant environments is temporal resolution, the ability to follow rapid acoustic changes over time. Temporal resolution is thought to help listeners resolve rapid acoustic changes in speech as well as use small glimpses of speech available in the dips or gaps in the background sounds. Temporal resolution is an ability that is known to deteriorate with age and hearing loss, negatively affecting the ability to understand speech in noisy real-world environments.

Measures of temporal resolution, including temporal masking, gap detection, and speech in interrupted noise, use a silent gap as the cue of interest. Temporal masking and speech in interrupted noise tasks measure how well a listener resolves a stimulus before, after, or between sounds (i.e., within a silent gap), while gap detection tasks measure how well the listener resolves the timing of a silent gap itself. A listener needs to resolve information within the gap and the timing of the gap when listening to speech in background sounds. This study examined the role of aging and hearing loss on three measures of temporal resolution: temporal masking, gap detection, and speech understanding in interrupted noise. For all three measures, participants were young listeners with normal hearing (n = 8, mean age = 25.4 years) and older listeners with hearing loss (n = 9, mean age = 72.1 years).

Results showed significant differences between listener groups for all three temporal measures. Specifically, older listeners with hearing loss had higher temporal masked thresholds, larger gap detection thresholds, and required a higher signal-to-noise ratio for speech understanding in interrupted noise. Relations between temporal tasks were observed. Temporal masked thresholds and gap detection thresholds accounted for a significant amount of the variance in speech-in-noise scores. Findings suggest that deficits in temporal resolution abilities may contribute to the speech-in-noise difficulties reported by older listeners.

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