Benichov et al (2012) evaluated 53 adults (ages 19 to 89 years, mean age 56 years) with regard to age, hearing acuity (based on high-frequency, pure tone average), a composite score of cognitive function (created from tests of episodic memory, working memory and speed of processing) and verbal ability (based on WAIS and WTAR) with regard to the use of linguistic context on word recognition.
They report that the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) required for correct word recognition is inversely related to the probability of the same word occurring in the sentence context. After exploring the effects of aging, hearing acuity and cognitive ability with regard to spoken word recognition, they note age and cognitive ability contribute significant variance across all contextual conditions tested, while hearing acuity ceased to be a significant contributor to recognition thresholds in the high context conditions. Specifically, even with a moderate hearing loss, linguistic content provides a powerful effect with regard to improving recognition , and linguistic context may "virtually override differences among listeners" with regard to hearing acuity. Their regression analysis indicates cognitive ability is a significant predictor of word recognition—even after statistically controlling for hearing acuity.
Benichov et al report that as the probability of a word increases, the sensory information required to correctly identify that word decreases, thus emphasizing the importance of cognitive function with regard to auditory ability. They state their findings highlight the importance of due consideration for individual cognitive ability as well as linguistic context in addition to hearing acuity—even with regard to a straightforward task such as word recognition.
For More Information, References, and Recommendations
Beck DL. (2009) Cognition Friendly Amplification. British Society of Audiology Newsletter, Volume 57, August.
Beck DL. (2011) Exploring the Maze of the Cognition-Audition Connection. Hearing Journal 64(October).
Beck DL, Flexer C. (2011) Hearing is Where Listening Meets Brain…In Children and Adults. Hearing Review 18(2):30–35.
Benichov J, Cox LC, Tun PA, Wingfield A. (2012) Word Recognition Within a Linguistic Context—Effects of Age, Hearing Acuity, Verbal Ability and Cognitive Function. Ear & Hearing 33(2):250-256.
Craik FIM. (2007) The Role of Cognition an Age-Related Hearing Loss. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology 18(7):539–547
Lin FR, Metter J, O'Brien RJ, Resnick SM, Zonderman AB, Ferrucci L. (2011) Hearing Loss and Incident Dementia. Arch Neurol 68(2):214–220.