There is a subgroup of elderly hearing-impaired people who suffer exceptional communication deficits, in the form of poor speech perception, which are unaccounted for by the amount of heading loss. Audiologists lack an understanding of their specific perceptual difficulties and are unable to offer them adequate treatment.
The aim of this project is to uncover specific deficits involved and determine the potential for auditory training with digital enhancement of spectral cues. Long-term goals are to improve speech perception for these individuals with amplification and rehabilitation strategies. It is hypothesized that these listeners will demonstrate poorer voiced consonant recognition, wherein the use of spectral cues are deficient, and that digital enhancement of the spectral cue will be necessary in the auditory training process. Experiment I will confirm that these listeners will have different voiced consonant confusions than those with good speech perception, and whether voice gender or vowel context is pertinent to these confusions. This will be accomplished with a closed-set identification task of the voiced /b/, /d/, /g/, /m/, /n/, /v/, /z/ in the contexts of /i/, /a/, and /u/ spoken by a male and a female, and presented at 95 dB SPL. Secondly, it will be determined which spectral cues are unutilized by the poor discriminators in the recognition of the /b/-/d/ and /m/-/n/ distinctions in a single-interval, two-alternative forced-choice identification procedure of CVs edited to include only isolated spectral cues. Lastly, the efficacy of psychoacoustic forced-choice training methods will be examined with a 12 dB digital enhancement of a particular spectral cue on the group of poor discriminators. Using forced-choice training measures and digital enhancement as part of auditory training with elderly listeners is innovative. The lack of success we have had as audiologists in improving the quality of life for these people is an important clinical problem that has not been hitherto addressed. The findings from the proposed research will provide specific information on the perceptual deficits experienced by this group of people. This is a necessary first step towards devising successful amplification and rehabilitation strategies in order to bring these people out of the isolation caused by the inability to communicate effectively. The outcomes of this project are expected to provide the background necessary to make a competitive R01 bid.

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-O (22))
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Luethke, Lynn E
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University of North Carolina Greensboro
Other Domestic Higher Education
United States
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Phillips, Susan L; Richter, Scott J; McPherson, David (2009) Voiced initial consonant perception deficits in older listeners with hearing loss and good and poor word recognition. J Speech Lang Hear Res 52:118-29