A perspective on brain-behavior relationships and effects of age and hearing using speech-in-noise stimuli

Curtis J. Billings, Brandon M. Madsen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Understanding speech in background noise is often more difficult for individuals who are older and have hearing impairment than for younger, normal-hearing individuals. In fact, speech-understanding abilities among older individuals with hearing impairment varies greatly. Researchers have hypothesized that some of that variability can be explained by how the brain encodes speech signals in the presence of noise, and that brain measures may be useful for predicting behavioral performance in difficult-to-test patients. In a series of experiments, we have explored the effects of age and hearing impairment in both brain and behavioral domains with the goal of using brain measures to improve our understanding of speech-in-noise difficulties. The behavioral measures examined showed effect sizes for hearing impairment that were 6–10 dB larger than the effects of age when tested in steady-state noise, whereas electrophysiological age effects were similar in magnitude to those of hearing impairment. Both age and hearing status influence neural responses to speech as well as speech understanding in background noise. These effects can in turn be modulated by other factors, such as the characteristics of the background noise itself. Finally, the use of electrophysiology to predict performance on receptive speech-in-noise tasks holds promise, demonstrating root-mean-square prediction errors as small as 1–2 dB. An important next step in this field of inquiry is to sample the aging and hearing impairment variables continuously (rather than categorically) – across the whole lifespan and audiogram – to improve effect estimates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-102
Number of pages13
JournalHearing Research
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • Aging
  • Brain and behavior
  • Correlation
  • Cortical auditory evoked potentials
  • Hearing impairment
  • Hearing loss
  • Prediction
  • Speech in noise
  • Speech perception in noise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


Dive into the research topics of 'A perspective on brain-behavior relationships and effects of age and hearing using speech-in-noise stimuli'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this