Message and Talker Identification in Older Adults: Effects of Task, Distinctiveness of the Talkers' Voices, and Meaningfulness of the Competing Message Purpose In this study, the authors investigated (a) the effects of task, vocal distinctiveness of the competing talkers, and meaningfulness of the competitor on older listeners' identification of a target in the presence of competition and (b) the factors that are most predictive of the variability in target identification observed ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2009
Message and Talker Identification in Older Adults: Effects of Task, Distinctiveness of the Talkers' Voices, and Meaningfulness of the Competing Message
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Jessica Rossi-Katz
    Metropolitan State College of Denver, CO, and University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Kathryn Hoberg Arehart
    University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Contact author: Jessica Rossi-Katz, Metropolitan State College of Denver, Communication Arts and Sciences, Campus Box 34, P.O. Box 173362, Denver, CO 80217-3362. E-mail: jrossika@mscd.edu.
Article Information
Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Hearing / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2009
Message and Talker Identification in Older Adults: Effects of Task, Distinctiveness of the Talkers' Voices, and Meaningfulness of the Competing Message
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2009, Vol. 52, 435-453. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/07-0243)
History: Received November 2, 2007 , Revised April 24, 2008 , Accepted September 11, 2008
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2009, Vol. 52, 435-453. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/07-0243)
History: Received November 2, 2007; Revised April 24, 2008; Accepted September 11, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 25

Purpose In this study, the authors investigated (a) the effects of task, vocal distinctiveness of the competing talkers, and meaningfulness of the competitor on older listeners' identification of a target in the presence of competition and (b) the factors that are most predictive of the variability in target identification observed among older listeners.

Method Seventeen older and 5 younger adults identified a target in the presence of a competing message. Identification was measured for 2 target types (message; talker), 3 vocal-distinctiveness levels (same talker; different talkers–same sex; different talkers–different sex), and 2 competitors (meaningful speech; nonmeaningful time-reversed speech). Multiple regression analyses were used to identify variables that were predictive of intersubject variability.

Results Significant age-related differences were found in the benefit obtained from increasing vocal distinctiveness. Older listeners showed reduced target identification when (a) the competitor was normal speech compared with time-reversed speech and (b) the target was message identification compared with talker identification. Variability among listeners in the older group was partially explained by auditory and cognitive factors.

Conclusion Age-related declines in multitalker environments are not solely due to lower-level deficits in perceptual organization but are also a consequence of an interaction between lower-level and higher-level processes.

Acknowledgments
Portions of this work were part of the first author’s doctoral dissertation in the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This work was supported, in part, by the Beverly Sears Graduate Student Grant Program at the University of Colorado and by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Grant/Cooperative Agreement Number UR3/CCU824219. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC. The authors thank Vinod Prakash and Ramesh Muralimanohar for technical assistance.
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