The influence of informational masking on speech perception and pupil response in adults with hearing impairment

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A recent pupillometry study on adults with normal hearing indicates that the pupil response during speech perception (cognitive processing load) is strongly affected by the type of speech masker. The current study extends these results by recording the pupil response in 32 participants with hearing impairment (mean age 59 yr) while they were listening to sentences masked by fluctuating noise or a single-talker. Efforts were made to improve audibility of all sounds by means of spectral shaping. Additionally, participants performed tests measuring verbal working memory capacity, inhibition of interfering information in working memory, and linguistic closure. The results showed worse speech reception thresholds for speech masked by single-talker speech compared to fluctuating noise. In line with previous results for participants with normal hearing, the pupil response was larger when listening to speech masked by a single-talker compared to fluctuating noise. Regression analysis revealed that larger working memory capacity and better inhibition of interfering information related to better speech reception thresholds, but these variables did not account for inter-individual differences in the pupil response. In conclusion, people with hearing impairment show more cognitive load during speech processing when there is interfering speech compared to fluctuating noise. © 2014 Acoustical Society of America.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1596-1606
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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