Sources of age-related recognition difficulty for time-compressed speech

J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2001 Aug;44(4):709-19. doi: 10.1044/1092-4388(2001/056).


Older people frequently show poorer recognition of rapid speech or time-compressed speech than younger listeners. The present investigation sought to determine if the age-related problem in recognition of time-compressed speech could be attributed primarily to a decline in the speed of information processing or to a decline in processing brief acoustic cues. The role of the availability of linguistic cues on recognition performance was examined also. Younger and older listeners with normal hearing and with hearing loss participated in the experiments. Stimuli were sentences, linguistic phrases, and strings of random words that were unmodified in duration or were time compressed with uniform time compression or with selective time compression of consonants, vowels, or pauses. Age effects were observed for recognition of unmodified random words, but not for sentences and linguistic phrases. Analysis of difference scores (unmodified speech versus time-compressed speech) showed age effects for time-compressed sentences and phrases. The forms of time compression that were notably difficult for older listeners were uniform time compression and selective time compression of consonants. Indeed, poor performance in recognizing uniformly time-compressed speech was attributed primarily to difficulty in recognizing speech that incorporated selective time compression of consonants. Hearing loss effects were observed also for most of the listening conditions, although these effects were independent of the aging effects. In general, the findings support the notion that the problems of older listeners in recognizing time-compressed speech are associated with difficulty in processing the brief, limited acoustic cues for consonants that are inherent in rapid speech.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology
  • Cues
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Verbal Behavior