Purpose: While evaluating the speech recognition ability of older adults, the present study aimed to analyze their error types in parts of speech and find error patterns under various conditions of background noise level and speed of speech.
Methods: Twenty older adults with normal hearing for their age (NHiA) and 20 older adults with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) participated. Their cognitive function was screened as within the normal range (mini-mental state examination scores >25). The SNHL listeners were divided into high performers (SNHL-H; n=12) and low performers (SNHL-L; n=8), based on their achieving word recognition scores above or below 70%, respectively. A sentence recognition test was conducted at four levels of signal-to-noise ratio (SNR; eg, no noise, +6, +3, 0 dB) and four conditions of time alteration (eg, 30% and 15% of compression and expansion) at the most comfortable level for each participant.
Results: As expected, the three groups showed that the error percentage increased in sentence recognition as either the SNR decreased or the speech rate became faster. Interestingly, a larger performance difference was found between the SNHL-H and SNHL-L groups in the condition of time alteration than in that of background noise. Among the parts of speech, nouns presented the highest error scores for all participants regardless of degree of listening difficulty. The noun errors of the three groups mainly consisted of no response and fail patterns, but substitution and omission were identified as the third pattern of noun error for background noise and fast speech, respectively.
Conclusion: Deterioration of speech recognition from the hearing threshold and supra-threshold auditory processing was seen in the elderly in difficult listening environments such as background noise and time alteration. Although different group performance ran across the eight experimental conditions, the robustness of noun errors and the error patterns were very similar, which might be extended to a possible clinical application of aural rehabilitation for the elderly population.
Keywords: age-related perceptual error; distracting listening condition; error pattern; noun error; sentence perception.