Development and Efficacy of a Frequent-Word Auditory Training Protocol for Older Adults with Impaired Hearing

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Objectives:The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of a word-based auditory-training procedure for use with older adults who have impaired hearing. The emphasis during training and assessment is placed on words with a high frequency of occurrence in American English.Design:In this study, a repeated-measures group design was used with each of the two groups of participants to evaluate the effects of the word-based training regimen. One group comprised 20 young adults with normal hearing and the other consisted of 16 older adults with impaired hearing. The group of young adults was not included for the purpose of between-group comparisons. Rather, it was included to demonstrate the efficacy of the training regimen, should efficacy fail to be demonstrated in the group of older adults, and to estimate the magnitude of the benefits that could be achieved in younger listeners.Results:Significant improvements were observed in the group means for each of five measures of post-training assessment. Pretraining and post-training performance assessments were all based on the open-set recognition of speech in a fluctuating speech-like background noise. Assessment measures ranged from recognition of trained words and phrases produced by talkers heard during training to the recognition of untrained sentences produced by a talker not encountered during training. In addition to these group data, analysis of individual data via 95% critical differences for each assessment measure revealed that 75 to 80% of the older adults demonstrated significant improvements on most or all of the post-training measures.Conclusions:The word-based auditory-training program examined here, one based on words having a high frequency of occurrence in American English, has been demonstrated to be efficacious in older adults with impaired hearing. Training on frequent words and frequent phrases generalized to sentences constructed from frequently occurring words whether spoken by talkers heard during training or by a novel talker.

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