The effect of age and type of noise on speech perception under conditions of changing context and noise levels

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Objective: Everyday life includes fluctuating noise levels, resulting in continuously changing speech intelligibility. The study aims were: (1) to quantify the amount of decrease in age-related speech perception, as a result of increasing noise level, and (2) to test the effect of age on context usage at the word level (smaller amount of contextual cues). Patients and Methods: A total of 24 young adults (age 20-30 years) and 20 older adults (age 60-75 years) were tested. Meaningful and nonsense one-syllable consonant-vowel-consonant words were presented with the background noise types of speech noise (SpN), babble noise (BN), and white noise (WN), with a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 0 and -5 dB. Results: Older adults had lower accuracy in SNR = 0, with WN being the most difficult condition for all participants. Measuring the change in speech perception when SNR decreased showed a reduction of 18.6-61.5% in intelligibility, with age effect only for BN. Both young and older adults used less phonemic context with WN, as compared to other conditions. Conclusion: Older adults are more affected by an increasing noise level of fluctuating informational noise as compared to steady-state noise. They also use less contextual cues when perceiving monosyllabic words. Further studies should take into consideration that when presenting the stimulus differently (change in noise level, less contextual cues), other perceptual and cognitive processes are involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-21
Number of pages6
JournalFolia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016


  • Aging
  • context
  • noise
  • speech perception


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