Listening in background noise is one of the most difficult listening situations, ranking as the primary complaint among hearing aid users and a common complaint among the elderly. Despite the prevalence of perception-in-noise data in these populations, it remains unclear how human cortical encoding of signals in noise contributes to perceptual abilities in these populations. A significant portion of the variability in perception-in-noise performance may be explained by neural encoding differences across individuals. Therefore, the purpose of the research proposed is to better characterize the neural encoding of speech signals in noise and relate that encoding to behavior. Cortical auditory evoked potentials together with behavioral signal-in-noise testing will be used to answer three questions. (1) What is the effect of signal-to- noise ratio (SNR) on cortical encoding of signals in noise? (2) What are the effects of background noise type on cortical encoding of signals in noise? (3) How does the cortical representation of signals in noise correlate with perception of signals in noise? To answer these questions, signal-to-noise ratio and background noise type will be varied across four groups (young normal hearing, young hearing impaired, old normal hearing, and old hearing impaired). It is hoped that the combination of physiological and behavioral information will improve our understanding of perception-in-noise variability and lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of signal-in-noise deficits.

Public Health Relevance

Listening in background noise is a major challenge for many individuals, including older individual and hearing-impaired individuals;furthermore, performance variability across individuals is an important challenge. A measure of cortical neural encoding would provide additional valuable information about the auditory system and may be used to better understand and treat perception-in-noise difficulties across individuals.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZDC1-SRB-Y (56))
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Donahue, Amy
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Oregon Health and Science University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Billings, Curtis J; Penman, Tina M; Ellis, Emily M et al. (2016) Phoneme and Word Scoring in Speech-in-Noise Audiometry. Am J Audiol 25:75-83
Papesh, Melissa A; Billings, Curtis J; Baltzell, Lucas S (2015) Background noise can enhance cortical auditory evoked potentials under certain conditions. Clin Neurophysiol 126:1319-30
Billings, Curtis J; Penman, Tina M; McMillan, Garnett P et al. (2015) Electrophysiology and Perception of Speech in Noise in Older Listeners: Effects of Hearing Impairment and Age. Ear Hear 36:710-22
Baltzell, Lucas S; Billings, Curtis J (2014) Sensitivity of offset and onset cortical auditory evoked potentials to signals in noise. Clin Neurophysiol 125:370-80
Billings, Curtis J; McMillan, Garnett P; Penman, Tina M et al. (2013) Predicting perception in noise using cortical auditory evoked potentials. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 14:891-903
Billings, Curtis J; Papesh, Melissa A; Penman, Tina M et al. (2012) Clinical use of aided cortical auditory evoked potentials as a measure of physiological detection or physiological discrimination. Int J Otolaryngol 2012:365752