A Dynamic Speech Comprehension Test for Assessing Real-World Listening Ability

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Abstract

Background:

Many listeners with hearing loss report particular difficulties with multitalker communication situations, but these difficulties are not well predicted using current clinical and laboratory assessment tools.

Purpose:

The overall aim of this work is to create new speech tests that capture key aspects of multitalker communication situations and ultimately provide better predictions of real-world communication abilities and the effect of hearing aids.

Research Design:

A test of ongoing speech comprehension introduced previously was extended to include naturalistic conversations between multiple talkers as targets, and a reverberant background environment containing competing conversations. In this article, we describe the development of this test and present a validation study.

Study Sample:

Thirty listeners with normal hearing participated in this study.

Data Collection and Analysis:

Speech comprehension was measured for one-, two-, and threetalker passages at three different signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs), and working memory ability was measured using the reading span test. Analyses were conducted to examine passage equivalence, learning effects, and test-retest reliability, and to characterize the effects of number of talkers and SNR.

Results:

Although we observed differences in difficulty across passages, it was possible to group the passages into four equivalent sets. Using this grouping, we achieved good test-retest reliability and observed no significant learning effects. Comprehension performance was sensitive to the SNR but did not decrease as the number of talkers increased. Individual performance showed associations with age and reading span score.

Conclusions:

This new dynamic speech comprehension test appears to be valid and suitable for experimental purposes. Further work will explore its utility as a tool for predicting real-world communication ability and hearing aid benefit.

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