Stability in the Face of Change: Cognitive Supports and Cognitive Constraints in speech Comprehension by older adults with age-related hearing loss
In addition to declines in peripheral hearing acuity, and central auditory processing deficits, older adulthood is often accompanied by reduced working memory capacity, reduced efficiency in executive function, and a general slowing in a range of perceptual and cognitive operations. In spite of these changes, comprehension of meaningful speech in adult aging typically reflects relative stability, or at most a “graceful decline”, rather than catastrophic failure. The question is thus not only why performance in some aspects of spoken language comprehension decline in adult aging but why, in the absence of significant neuropathology, performance remains as stable as it does. In phrasing the question in this way we address one of the most fundamental questions in current neurobiology: how stable behavior can be produced in spite of changes in underlying neural structures and circuit parameters. Dr. Wingfield will discuss current views on sensory-cognitive interactions in adult aging. Of special interest are data showing that there is a cognitive cost to successful but effortful perception with a degraded speech input. This resource-related cost appears in a reduced ability to encode what has been heard in memory and to comprehend speech when meaning is expressed with underspecified or complex syntax as often occurs in everyday listening. These represent “hidden effects” of mild-to-moderate hearing loss that appear even when the speech itself passes a test of audibility, and broadens the full picture of age-related hearing loss in everyday listening.
Dr. Arthur Wingfield is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Brandeis University.
This event is open to the public.