DOI: 10.1101/489237Apr 24, 2020Paper

Evidence for enhanced neural tracking of the speech envelope underlying age-related speech-in-noise difficulties

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Lien DecruyTom Francart


When we grow older, understanding speech in noise becomes more challenging. Research has demonstrated the role of auditory temporal and cognitive deficits in these age-related speech-in-noise difficulties, beyond peripheral hearing loss. To better understand the neural mechanisms underlying these difficulties, we recruited young, middle-aged and older normal-hearing (NH) adults, and investigated the interplay between speech understanding, cognitive skills and neural tracking of the speech envelope using electroencephalography (EEG). The stimuli consisted of natural speech masked by speech-weighted noise or a competing talker, presented at several subject-specific speech understanding levels. The results show that healthy aging resulted in a quadratic increase in the speech reception threshold, i.e., worse speech understanding, most pronounced for the competing talker. Similarly, advancing age was associated with a quadratic increase in envelope tracking with a pronounced enhancement for older adults. Additionally, envelope tracking was found to increase with speech understanding, and this was most apparent for older adults. Since the cognitive tests partly explained the variability in envelope tracking, our results support the ...Continue Reading

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