Senescent decline in verbal-emotion identification by older hearing-impaired listeners – do hearing aids help?
journal contributionposted on 16.11.2020, 15:01 by Robert Ruiz, Lionel Fontan, Hugo Fillol, Christian Fullgrabe
Purpose: To assess the ability of older-adult hearing-impaired (OHI) listeners to identify verbal expressions of emotions, and to evaluate whether hearing-aid (HA) use improves identification performance in those listeners.
Methods: Twenty-nine OHI listeners, who were experienced bilateral-HA users, participated in the study. They listened to a 20-sentence-long speech passage rendered with six different emotional expressions (“happiness”, “pleasant surprise”, “sadness”, “anger”, “fear”, and “neutral”). The task was to identify the emotion portrayed in each version of the passage. Listeners completed the task twice in random order, once unaided, and once wearing their own bilateral HAs. Seventeen young-adult normal-hearing (YNH) listeners were also tested unaided as controls.
Results: Most YNH listeners (89.2%) correctly identified emotions compared to just over half of the OHI listeners (58.7%). Within the OHI group, verbal emotion identification was significantly correlated with age, but not with audibility-related factors. The number of OHI listeners who were able to correctly identify the different emotions did not significantly change when HAs were worn (54.8%).
Conclusion: In line with previous investigations using shorter speech stimuli, there were clear age differences in the recognition of verbal emotions, with OHI listeners showing a significant reduction in unaided verbal-emotion identification performance that progressively declined with age across older adulthood. Rehabilitation through HAs did not provide compensation for the impaired ability to perceive emotions carried by speech sounds.
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