Speech perception can present a challenge as we grow older. One of the factors responsible is, of course, hearing loss. Now research indicates that other non-auditory factors like cognitive decline may also contribute to difficulties in understanding speech. The authors of this study tried to determine the influence of cognitive, acoustic, and linguistic factors on speech perception in elderly adults (65 to 81 years).

Their results revealed that elderly adults with normal hearing as well as hearing loss had a lower likelihood of identifying phonemes in single words compared to younger adults with normal hearing. In addition, elderly adults with hearing loss were less likely to identify phonemes in sentences correctly than the control group.

According to the authors, syntactic complexity and a decline in inhibitory control with age may contribute to the lower speech perception outcomes in the elderly. They suggest that clinicians should consider these factors when assessing and interpreting speech perception outcomes in the elderly. This may help to tailor the appropriate treatment or rehabilitation in this population of patients.

Speech understanding in noise in elderly adults: the effect of inhibitory control and syntactic complexity.
van Knijff EC, Coene M, Govaerts P.
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Gauri Mankekar

Department of Otolaryngology-Head Neck Surgery, Louisiana State University Shreveport, Louisiana, USA.

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