The effects of aging and hearing impairment on listening in noise

iScience Volume 27, Issue 4, 19 April 2024, 109295; Published: February 20, 2024

Ádám Boncz 1,5 , Orsolya Szalárdy 1,2 , Péter Kristóf Velősy 3, Luca Béres 1,3, Robert Baumgartner 4, István Winkler 1, Brigitta Tóth 1

1Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, HUN-REN Research Centre for Natural Sciences, Budapest, Hungary

2Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary

3Department of Cognitive Science, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Budapest, Hungary

4Acoustics Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria



The study investigates age-related decline in listening abilities, particularly in noisy environments, where the challenge lies in extracting meaningful information from variable sensory input (figure-ground segregation). The research focuses on peripheral and central factors contributing to this decline using a tone-cloud-based figure detection task. Results based on behavioral measures and event-related brain potentials (ERPs) indicate that, despite delayed perceptual processes and some deterioration in attention and executive functions with aging, the ability to detect sound sources in noise remains relatively intact. However, even mild hearing impairment significantly hampers the segregation of individual sound sources within a complex auditory scene. The severity of the hearing deficit correlates with an increased susceptibility to masking noise. The study underscores the impact of hearing impairment on auditory scene analysis and highlights the need for personalized interventions based on individual abilities.