Age-related changes in the use of linguistic cues for speech intelligibility in adverse listening conditions.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Linguistics

Abstract

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Technical Summary

The project investigates how linguistic cues aid speech intelligibility in young and old adults. The research is based on the pardoxical finding that older adults show comparable or even better speech comprehension on certain types of tasks compared to young adults despite their increasing restriction by age-related hearing loss. Using linguistically carefully controlled speech material we seek to investigate what makes older adults such efficient users of language, what types of linguistic cues (acoustic-phonetic cues and global semantic cues) are particularly useful to them in various (adverse) listening conditions, and how these factors interact with age. We are particularly interested in assessing how older adults‘ superior linguistic knowledge on the one hand and their increasing hearing loss on the other interact, and how compensatory processes emerge as a new skill from this interaction. Our multidisciplinary approach will include linguistic-phonetic as well as behavioural and electrophysiological methods to assess the mechanisms underlying speech comprehension. In three separate studies we will test young and old adults on various behavioural speech perception tasks that are set up to manipulate specific linguistic cues. In Study 4 we will collect electrophysiological data (ERP) to assess at which processing stage the phonetic and semantic cues affect young and old adults‘ speech performance, whether there are general differences in processing strategy and how the strategy changes with a change in listening environment. The results of the project will advance our understanding of the remarkable robustness of speech perception in the light of unfavourable listening environments and aging, and further elucidate how compensation mechanisms in older adults work to overcome age-related deficiencies in one domain (hearing) with superior functioning in another domain (verbal knowledge).

Publications

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Heinrich A (2015) Influences of word predictability and type of masker noise on intelligibility of sung text in live concerts. in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

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Heinrich, Antje (2011) Young and old listeners' perception of speech in the background of English- and foreign-accented babble in Fechner Day 2011: International Society for Psychophysics Twenty-seventh Annual Meeting

 
Description Arts Award
Amount £59,024 (GBP)
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2012 
End 03/2013
 
Description Student summership
Amount £1,600 (GBP)
Organisation Action on Hearing Loss 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2013 
End 08/2013
 
Description Wellcome Trust Small Arts Award
Amount £16,005 (GBP)
Funding ID Roger go to Yellow Three 
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Department Wellcome - MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2011 
End 03/2012
 
Title British-English Sentence Set Test (BESST) 
Description a set of 120 phonetically-balanced sentences that differ in the semantic predictability of the final word. Recorded in standard Southern British accent (SSBE). A test of carefully phonetically-balanced high/low-predictability sentences is currently not available at all, and no high/low-predictability sentence test (regardless of linguistic care taken) is currently available in a British English accent even though great demand exists in the speech community. This greatly impedes research and clinical practice. The test is currently being used and validated for different age groups (normally-developing children, children with speech/language/hearing disabilities, young/older adults). 
Type Of Material Physiological assessment or outcome measure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact not yet. As it is still in development, needs to be validated first 
 
Description British English Sentence Set Test - A phonetically-balanced set of sentences varying in semantic predictability 
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC)
Department MRC Institute of Hearing Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Development of actual sentences, recording of sentences, editing of sentences, setting up various experiments to validate sentence set and to test in different age groups (children, young adults, old adults)
Collaborator Contribution R. Moorehouse, Dr. J. Barry, Dr. S. Knight: Development of sentences, Dr. J. Barry, Dr. S. Knight: collecting data on validating the sentence set and testing it in various age groups
Impact * successful application for AoHL summer studentship for a student (R. Moorehouse) to help in the development of the sentences * high-quality recordings of 120 low/high-predictability sentence pairs, spoken in British English accent, ready for use by the speech community * 2 posters at the British Society of Audiology conference on the testing outcomes of the sentences in young adults and children * manuscript in preparation
Start Year 2013
 
Description Generalising principles of intelligibility across spoken and sung speech 
Organisation Brunel University London
Department Brunel Arts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Extending our understanding of speech intelligibility by investigating factors influencing intelligibility of sung speech. Role Dr. A. Heinrich: Development of study concept, experimental design, test stimulus preparation, manuscript preparation
Collaborator Contribution Role Prof S. Hawkins (Cambridge): development of study concept, test stimulus preparation, manuscript preparation Dr. E. Wickham (Cambridge): directed CLERKS' live performances in concert venues across the UK. Prof C. Fox (Brunel): wrote musical score.
Impact * a number of concerts which combined general public science education with data gathering. * poster presented at British society of Audiology short paper meeting Sept 2012 * Welcome Trust Small Arts Grant Award 2011 * Welcome Trust Large Arts Grant Award 2012 * Cambridge University School of Arts and Humanities Grant 2011 This work is highly interdisciplinary and combines experimental speech sciences, linguistics, music composition and performance
Start Year 2010
 
Description Generalising principles of intelligibility across spoken and sung speech 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department Faculty of Music
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Extending our understanding of speech intelligibility by investigating factors influencing intelligibility of sung speech. Role Dr. A. Heinrich: Development of study concept, experimental design, test stimulus preparation, manuscript preparation
Collaborator Contribution Role Prof S. Hawkins (Cambridge): development of study concept, test stimulus preparation, manuscript preparation Dr. E. Wickham (Cambridge): directed CLERKS' live performances in concert venues across the UK. Prof C. Fox (Brunel): wrote musical score.
Impact * a number of concerts which combined general public science education with data gathering. * poster presented at British society of Audiology short paper meeting Sept 2012 * Welcome Trust Small Arts Grant Award 2011 * Welcome Trust Large Arts Grant Award 2012 * Cambridge University School of Arts and Humanities Grant 2011 This work is highly interdisciplinary and combines experimental speech sciences, linguistics, music composition and performance
Start Year 2010
 
Description Hearing, Remembering, and Living Well: Paying Attention to Challenges that Older Adults Face in Noisy Environments 
Organisation Interdisciplinary Center IDC Herzliya
Department School of Psychology
Country Israel 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Heinrich: influence of peripheral auditory factors for speech perception in various background noise for young and old listeners
Collaborator Contribution Schneider: influence of linguistic competence for speech in noise perception for young and old listeners Gagne: influence of acoustic environment and listening effort on speech in noise perception for young and old listeners Levy: individual differences in attention to speech in noise perception Viljanen: Communication and social participation
Impact We just received notification of funding. My part of funded by BBSRC. The other partners are funded by their respective national funding agencies. Work on this interdisciplinary and international project will commence in January 2013.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Hearing, Remembering, and Living Well: Paying Attention to Challenges that Older Adults Face in Noisy Environments 
Organisation University of Jyvaskyla
Department Gerontology Research Centre (GEREC)
Country Finland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Heinrich: influence of peripheral auditory factors for speech perception in various background noise for young and old listeners
Collaborator Contribution Schneider: influence of linguistic competence for speech in noise perception for young and old listeners Gagne: influence of acoustic environment and listening effort on speech in noise perception for young and old listeners Levy: individual differences in attention to speech in noise perception Viljanen: Communication and social participation
Impact We just received notification of funding. My part of funded by BBSRC. The other partners are funded by their respective national funding agencies. Work on this interdisciplinary and international project will commence in January 2013.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Hearing, Remembering, and Living Well: Paying Attention to Challenges that Older Adults Face in Noisy Environments 
Organisation University of Montreal
Department School of Speech Pathology and Audiology
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Heinrich: influence of peripheral auditory factors for speech perception in various background noise for young and old listeners
Collaborator Contribution Schneider: influence of linguistic competence for speech in noise perception for young and old listeners Gagne: influence of acoustic environment and listening effort on speech in noise perception for young and old listeners Levy: individual differences in attention to speech in noise perception Viljanen: Communication and social participation
Impact We just received notification of funding. My part of funded by BBSRC. The other partners are funded by their respective national funding agencies. Work on this interdisciplinary and international project will commence in January 2013.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Hearing, Remembering, and Living Well: Paying Attention to Challenges that Older Adults Face in Noisy Environments 
Organisation University of Toronto
Department Department of Psychology
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Heinrich: influence of peripheral auditory factors for speech perception in various background noise for young and old listeners
Collaborator Contribution Schneider: influence of linguistic competence for speech in noise perception for young and old listeners Gagne: influence of acoustic environment and listening effort on speech in noise perception for young and old listeners Levy: individual differences in attention to speech in noise perception Viljanen: Communication and social participation
Impact We just received notification of funding. My part of funded by BBSRC. The other partners are funded by their respective national funding agencies. Work on this interdisciplinary and international project will commence in January 2013.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Investigating the role of phonetic detail in the adaptation to voices for hearing-impaired listeners 
Organisation University Medical Center Gronigen
Country Netherlands 
Sector Hospitals 
PI Contribution Expertise related to the use of phonetic detail in the adaptation to voices for hearing-impaired listeners
Collaborator Contribution Dr E. Gaudrain: PI on VIDI application (submitted to the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research)
Impact none yet
Start Year 2014