Please try harder! The influence of hearing status and evaluative feedback during listening on the pupil dilation response, saliva-cortisol and saliva alpha-amylase levels

A.A. Zekveld, J.A.M. van Scheepen, N.J. Versfeld, E.C.I. Veerman, S.E. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The pupil dilation response is sensitive both to listening effort and the emotional significance of a task. We aimed to assess the influence of evaluative feedback on the pupil dilation response using a speech reception threshold (SRT) task. Besides the pupil dilation response, we acquired subjective ratings and two physiological biomarkers sensitive to stress: cortisol and alpha-amylase levels as determined in saliva samples. We included 34 participants with normal hearing (mean age = 52 years, age range 25–67 years) and 29 age-matched participants with mild-to-moderate hearing loss (mean age = 52 years, age range 23–64 years). Half of the participants performed a standard SRT test without feedback, and the other half performed an SRT test in which they did receive feedback and were urged to perform better. The SRT conditions targeted 50% and 71% correct reception of the sentences. Pupil size was recorded and saliva samples were obtained and participants rated their experience of the task. Participants with hearing loss performed more poorly on the SRT test than participants with normal hearing participants receiving feedback had better SRTs in the 71% intelligibility condition and higher peak pupil dilation in both intelligibility conditions than participants who did not receive feedback, irrespective of hearing status. Saliva cortisol level and alpha-amylase activity reflected the usual diurnal patterns but showed no effects of hearing status or feedback. Finally, participants who received feedback experienced more difficulties than those who did not receive feedback, irrespective of hearing status. This study underlines the importance of taking into account the influence of task instructions and feedback in a speech perception task as these factors may influence the experienced difficulties, listening effort, and task performance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107768
Number of pages10
JournalHearing research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2019


  • Alpha-amylase
  • Cortisol
  • Feedback
  • Listening effort
  • Pupil dilation response
  • Speech reception

Cite this