Does Chronic Tinnitus Impact Listening Effort?
Does chronic tinnitus have an impact on listening effort? Degeest et al (2017) completed a pilot investigation where this was the primary question. Subjects included 13 individuals with both normal hearing and constant, chronic tinnitus and 13 individuals who made up a matched control group without tinnitus. Both subject groups completed a dual-task paradigm and a subjective assessment of listening effort in three real-world conditions: (1) quiet with one talker, (2) quiet with multiple talkers, and (3) in background noise.
A significant effect of group was obtained in terms of performance on the secondary task of the dual-task paradigm, which is considered a metric of effort. This suggests that the individuals with tinnitus were expending more effort. No effect of condition, however, was obtained, suggesting there was no relationship between effort and the difficulty of the listening task. No significant differences were obtained between groups on the subjective assessment of effort either. It should be noted that the subjects with tinnitus reported little to no tinnitus handicap, nor was their tinnitus handicap score correlated with their test results.
These findings suggest that chronic tinnitus, therefore, may have an impact on listening effort regardless of the difficulty of the listening condition. The authors, however, do suggest that this finding may be impacted by the study design and suggest future work in this area.
Degeest S, Keppler H, Corthals P. (2017) The effect of tinnitus on listening effort in normal-hearing young adults: a preliminary study. J Speech Lang Hear Res, 60:1036–1045.