Cortical and Sensory Causes of Individual Differences in Selective Attention Ability Among Listeners With Normal Hearing Thresholds Purpose This review provides clinicians with an overview of recent findings relevant to understanding why listeners with normal hearing thresholds (NHTs) sometimes suffer from communication difficulties in noisy settings. Method The results from neuroscience and psychoacoustics are reviewed. Results In noisy settings, listeners focus their attention ... Review Article
Review Article  |   October 17, 2017
Cortical and Sensory Causes of Individual Differences in Selective Attention Ability Among Listeners With Normal Hearing Thresholds
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Barbara Shinn-Cunningham
    Center for Research in Sensory Communication and Emerging Neural Technology, Boston University, MA
  • Disclosure: The author has declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The author has declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Barbara Shinn-Cunningham: shinn@cns.bu.edu
  • Editor-in-Chief: Frederick (Erick) Gallun
    Editor-in-Chief: Frederick (Erick) Gallun×
  • Editor: Karen Helfer
    Editor: Karen Helfer×
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Research Forum: Advances in Research on Auditory Attention and the Processing of Complex Auditory Stimuli / Review Articles
Review Article   |   October 17, 2017
Cortical and Sensory Causes of Individual Differences in Selective Attention Ability Among Listeners With Normal Hearing Thresholds
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2017, Vol. 60, 2976-2988. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-H-17-0080
History: Received February 27, 2017 , Revised June 23, 2017 , Accepted July 5, 2017
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2017, Vol. 60, 2976-2988. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-H-17-0080
History: Received February 27, 2017; Revised June 23, 2017; Accepted July 5, 2017

Purpose This review provides clinicians with an overview of recent findings relevant to understanding why listeners with normal hearing thresholds (NHTs) sometimes suffer from communication difficulties in noisy settings.

Method The results from neuroscience and psychoacoustics are reviewed.

Results In noisy settings, listeners focus their attention by engaging cortical brain networks to suppress unimportant sounds; they then can analyze and understand an important sound, such as speech, amidst competing sounds. Differences in the efficacy of top-down control of attention can affect communication abilities. In addition, subclinical deficits in sensory fidelity can disrupt the ability to perceptually segregate sound sources, interfering with selective attention, even in listeners with NHTs. Studies of variability in control of attention and in sensory coding fidelity may help to isolate and identify some of the causes of communication disorders in individuals presenting at the clinic with “normal hearing.”

Conclusions How well an individual with NHTs can understand speech amidst competing sounds depends not only on the sound being audible but also on the integrity of cortical control networks and the fidelity of the representation of suprathreshold sound. Understanding the root cause of difficulties experienced by listeners with NHTs ultimately can lead to new, targeted interventions that address specific deficits affecting communication in noise.

Presentation Video http://cred.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2601617

Acknowledgments
The research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R13DC003383 and R01DC013825. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Order a Subscription
Pay Per View
Entire Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research content & archive
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access