Date: 11 Dec 2012

Different Patterns of Perceptual Learning on Spectral Modulation Detection Between Older Hearing-Impaired and Younger Normal-Hearing Adults

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Abstract

Young adults with normal hearing (YNH) can improve their sensitivity to basic acoustic features with practice. However, it is not known to what extent the influence of the same training regimen differs between YNH listeners and older listeners with hearing impairment (OHI)—the largest population seeking treatment in audiology clinics. To examine this issue, we trained OHI listeners on a basic auditory task (spectral modulation detection) using a training regimen previously administered to YNH listeners (∼1 h/session for seven sessions on a single condition). For the trained conditions on which pretraining performance was not already at asymptote, the YNH listeners who received training learned more than matched controls who received none, but that learning did not generalize to any untrained spectral modulation frequency. In contrast, the OHI-trained listeners and controls learned similar amounts on the trained condition, implying no effect of the training itself. However, surprisingly the OHI-trained listeners improved over the training phase and on an untrained spectral modulation frequency. These population differences suggest that learning consolidated more slowly, and that training modified an aspect of processing that had broader tuning to spectral modulation frequency, in OHI than YNH listeners. More generally, these results demonstrate that conclusions about perceptual learning that come from examination of one population do not necessarily apply to another.