J Am Acad Audiol 2016; 27(01): 013-028
DOI: 10.3766/jaaa.15017
American Academy of Audiology. All rights reserved. (2016) American Academy of Audiology

The Effect of Lexical Content on Dichotic Speech Recognition in Older Adults

Ursula M. Findlen
Christina M. Roup
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Publication History

Publication Date:
06 August 2020 (online)

Background: Age-related auditory processing deficits have been shown to negatively affect speech recognition for older adult listeners. In contrast, older adults gain benefit from their ability to make use of semantic and lexical content of the speech signal (i.e., top-down processing), particularly in complex listening situations. Assessment of auditory processing abilities among aging adults should take into consideration semantic and lexical content of the speech signal.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of lexical and attentional factors on dichotic speech recognition performance characteristics for older adult listeners.

Research Design: A repeated measures design was used to examine differences in dichotic word recognition as a function of lexical and attentional factors.

Study Sample: Thirty-five older adults (61–85 yr) with sensorineural hearing loss participated in this study.

Data Collection and Analysis: Dichotic speech recognition was evaluated using consonant–vowel–consonant (CVC) word and nonsense CVC syllable stimuli administered in the free recall, directed recall right, and directed recall left response conditions.

Results: Dichotic speech recognition performance for nonsense CVC syllables was significantly poorer than performance for CVC words. Dichotic recognition performance varied across response condition for both stimulus types, which is consistent with previous studies on dichotic speech recognition. Inspection of individual results revealed that five listeners demonstrated an auditory-based left ear deficit for one or both stimulus types.

Conclusions: Lexical content of stimulus materials affects performance characteristics for dichotic speech recognition tasks in the older adult population. The use of nonsense CVC syllable material may provide a way to assess dichotic speech recognition performance while potentially lessening the effects of lexical content on performance (i.e., measuring bottom-up auditory function both with and without top-down processing).