Relationships among age-related differences in gap detection and word recognition

J Acoust Soc Am. 2000 Mar;107(3):1615-26. doi: 10.1121/1.428446.


The relationships among age-related differences in gap detection and word recognition in subjects with normal hearing or mild sensorineural hearing loss were explored in two studies. In the first study, gap thresholds were obtained for 40 younger and 40 older subjects. The gaps were carried by 150-ms, modulated, low-pass noise bursts with cutoff frequencies of 1 or 6 kHz. The noise bursts were presented at an overall level of 80 dB SPL in three background conditions. Mean gap thresholds ranged between 2.6 and 7.8 ms for the younger age group and between 3.4 and 10.0 ms for the older group. Mean gap thresholds were significantly larger for the older group in all six conditions. Gap thresholds were not significantly correlated with audiometric thresholds in either age group but the 1-kHz gap thresholds increased with age in the younger group. In the second study, the relationships among gap thresholds, spondee-in-babble thresholds, and audiometric thresholds of 66 subjects were examined. Compared with the older subjects, the younger group recognized the spondees at significantly lower (more difficult) spondee-to-babble ratios. In the younger group, spondee-in-babble thresholds were significantly correlated with gap thresholds in conditions of high-frequency masking. In the older group, spondee-in-babble thresholds, gap thresholds, and audiometric thresholds were not significantly correlated, but the spondee-in-babble thresholds and two audiometric thresholds increased significantly with age. These results demonstrate that significant age-related changes in auditory processing occur throughout adulthood. Specifically, age-related changes in temporal acuity may begin decades earlier than age-related changes in word recognition.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Vocabulary*