Human Aging Compromises Attentional Control of Auditory Perception

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Abstract

Older adults often experience hearing difficulties in multitalker situations. Attentional control of auditory perception is crucial in situations where a plethora of auditory inputs compete for further processing. We combined an intensity-modulated dichotic listening paradigm with attentional manipulations to study adult age differences in the interplay between perceptual saliency and attentional control of auditory processing. When confronted with two competing sources of verbal auditory input, older adults modulated their attention less flexibly and were more driven by perceptual saliency than younger adults. These findings suggest that aging severely impairs the attentional regulation of auditory perception.

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