Listening Effort Increases with Age
Gosselin and Gagne (2011) evaluated self-reported "listening effort." Listening effort addresses "the attention and cognitive resources required to understand speech" and was based on two groups of adults listening to speech-in-noise. The younger group of adults had a mean age of 23.5 years, the older adults mean age was 69 years. A dual-task paradigm was used. The primary task involved a closed-set sentence recognition task, the secondary task involved a vibro-tactile pattern recognition task. Based on dual-task measures, Gosselin and Gagne determined that older adults expend more listening effort than younger adults (on these tasks) and older adults require more processing resources to understand the primary task (speech-in-noise), thereby leaving fewer (cognitive) resources available for the secondary (i.e., tactile) task.
The authors note that although subjective measures provide an indication of the subject's perceived level of ease or effort, subjective measures don't "appear to reflect the availability of, or demand on, processing resources." Specifically, when some people use an increased effort to understand speech-in-noise, they may not be aware of the additional effort expended. Gosselin and Gagne note that although two individuals may perform the same on word recognition tasks, they may have expended very different levels of listening efforts to accomplish the same result.
For More Information, References, and Recommendations
Beck DL. (2010) Cognition and Audition: Introductory Concepts. The Hearing Professional Oct-Nov-Dec:23-25.
Beck DL, Flexer C. (2011) Listening Is Where Hearing Meets Brain...In Children and Adults. Hearing Review February:30-33.
Beck DL, Clark JL. (2009) Audition Matters More as Cognition Declines & Cognition Matters More as Audition Declines. Audiology Today. March/April:47-60.
Gosselin PA, Gagne JP. (2011) Older Adults Expend More Listening Effort Than Younger Adults Recognizing Speech in Noise. Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research 54(6):944-958.
Pichora-Fuller MK. (2008) Use of Supportive Context by Younger and Older Adult Listeners: Balancing Bottom-Up and Top-Down Information Processing. International Journal of Audiology 47(2):S72-S82.
Pichora-Fuller, KM. (2010) Implications of Cognitive Factors for Rehabilitation. ARC 2010: In With the Old—New Research on Aging and Hearing Health. Audiology Today 22(5):59-60.
Richtel M. (2010) Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain. New York Times. August 15.