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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/27568

Title: Cognitive and Auditory Factors Underlying Auditory Spatial Attention in Younger and Older Adults
Authors: Singh, Gurjit
Advisor: Pichora-Fuller, Margaret Kathleen
Department: Psychology
Keywords: attention
audition
aging
spatial hearing
Issue Date: 9-Jun-2011
Abstract: Listening to speech with competing speech in the background is challenging and becomes harder with age. Three experiments examined the auditory and cognitive aspects of auditory spatial attention in conditions in which the location of the target was uncertain. In all experiments, word identification was measured for target sentences presented with two competitor sentences. On each trial, the three sentences were presented with one from each of three spatially separated loudspeakers. A priori cues specified the location and identity callsign of the target. In Experiments I and II, sentences were also presented in conditions of simulated spatial separation achieved with the precedence effect. Participants were younger and older adults with normal hearing sensitivity below 4 kHz. For both age groups, the contributions of richer acoustic cues (those present when there was real spatial separation, but absent when there was simulated spatial separation) were most pronounced when the target occurred at “unlikely” spatial listening locations, suggesting that both age groups benefit similarly from richer acoustical cues. In Experiment II, the effect of time between the callsign cue and target word on word identification was investigated. Four timing conditions were tested: the original sentences (which contained about 300 ms of filler speech between the callsign cue and the onset of the target words), or modified sentences with silent pauses of 0, 150, or 300 ms replacing the filler speech. For targets presented from unlikely locations, word identification was better for all listeners when there was more time between the callsign cue and key words, suggesting that time is needed to switch spatial attention. In Experiment III, the effects of single and multiple switches of attention were investigated. The key finding was that, whereas both age groups performed similarly in conditions requiring a single switch of attention, the performance of older, but not younger listeners, was reduced when multiple switches of spatial attention were required. This finding suggests that difficulties disengaging attention may contribute to the listening difficulties of older adults. In conclusion, cognitive and auditory factors contributing to auditory spatial attention appear to operate similarly for all listeners in relatively simple situations, and age-related differences are observed in more complex situations.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/27568
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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