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Age-group differences in speech identification despite matched audiometrically normal hearing

In a recent study, speech identification was assessed in young and older participants. The uniqueness of this study was that both age groups were matched in terms of peripheral hearing sensitivity (which normally declines with age). It was found that, even when peripheral hearing was still young-like, identifying speech in noise declined with age. These difficulties are probably due to age-related deficits in central auditory processing and/or in cognitive functions, both of which had also declined in our older group.

This study, published by Christian Fullgrabe, a Investigator Scientist with the Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research in Nottingham and visiting scholar in the Department of Psychology and in collaboration with Professor Brian Moore, constitutes an important proof of concept that age affects post-cochlear auditory processing and cognitive abilities (such as memory and attention), and that such "hidden hearing loss" can occur independently of peripheral hearing impairment. Consequently, providing hearing aids to older people experiencing speech-perception difficulties only compensates for some age deficits.

The article "Age-group differences in speech identification despite matched audiometrically normal hearing: contributions from auditory temporal processing and cognition" is published in Frontiers of Aging Neurosciences and is available in open access.

Posted on 26/01/2015

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