Speech Perception in a Communicative Context An Investigation Using Question/Answer Pairs Research Article
Research Article  |   June 1999
Speech Perception in a Communicative Context
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Mark C. Flynn
    Department of Otolaryngology The University of Melbourne Melbourne, Australia
  • Richard C. Dowell
    Department of Otolaryngology The University of Melbourne Melbourne, Australia
  • Contact author: Mark C. Flynn, PhD, Department of Speech and Language Therapy, The University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand.
    Contact author: Mark C. Flynn, PhD, Department of Speech and Language Therapy, The University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand.×
  • Corresponding author: e-mail: m.flynn@spth.canterbury.ac.nz
  • Currently affiliated with Department of Speech and Language Therapy, The University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
    Currently affiliated with Department of Speech and Language Therapy, The University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand×
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Hearing Disorders / Hearing / Research Articles
Research Article   |   June 1999
Speech Perception in a Communicative Context
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 1999, Vol. 42, 540-552. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4203.540
History: Received April 13, 1998 , Accepted January 26, 1999
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 1999, Vol. 42, 540-552. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4203.540
History: Received April 13, 1998; Accepted January 26, 1999

By diminishing the role of communicative context, traditional tests of speech perception may underestimate or misrepresent the actual speech perception abilities of adults with a hearing impairment. This study investigates this contention by devising an assessment that may better simulate some aspects of "reallife" speech perception. A group of 31 participants with a severe-to-profound hearing impairment took part in a series of speech perception tests while wearing their hearing aids. The tests used question/answer or adjacency pairs, where the stimulus sentence was preceded by a question spoken by the participant. Four conditions were included: (a) where there was no initiating sentence, as in a traditional open-set speech perception test; (b) where the initiating question was neutral (e.g. "Why?"); (c) where there was a disruptive semantic relationship between the question and answer; and (d) where there was a strong contextual relationship between the question and answer. The time delay between the question and answer was also varied. Results demonstrated that in all conditions where there was a preceding question speech perception improved, and increasing the cohesion between the question and the reply improved speech perception scores. Additionally, time delay and the relatedness of the reply interacted. The effects of semantic context appeared to diminish over a 10-s period while other linguistic effects remained more constant. These results indicate the utility of simulating communicative environments within speech perception tests.

Acknowledgments
The authors would like to particularly acknowledge the efforts of Doris Kirn (Australian Hearing Services), the audiologists in the Department of Otolaryngology (The University of Melbourne), and the staff of the Cochlear Implant Clinic (RVEEH) for the time and energy they spent in locating potential participants for this study. Additional encouragement at the beginning of this project was provided by Dr. Norm Erber (LaTrobe University) and Mr. Christopher Lind (The University of Queensland). Dr. Larry Humes and the three anonymous reviewers of an earlier draft of this article provided insightful and encouraging feedback, leading to significant improvements in the quality of the analysis. This research was partially supported by an Australian Postgraduate Research Award and the Cooperative Research Centre for Cochlear Implant, Speech and Hearing Research. Copies of the specific test items for the question-and-answer pairs assessment used in this experiment can be obtained from the first author.
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