Relating Suprathreshold Auditory Processing Abilities to Speech Understanding in Competition

Frederick J. Gallun, Laura Coco, Tess K. Koerner, E. Sebastian Lelo de Larrea‐Mancera, Michelle R. Molis, David A. Eddins, Aaron R. Seitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


(1) Background: Difficulty hearing in noise is exacerbated in older adults. Older adults are more likely to have audiometric hearing loss, although some individuals with normal pure‐tone audiograms also have difficulty perceiving speech in noise. Additional variables also likely account for speech understanding in noise. It has been suggested that one important class of variables is the ability to process auditory information once it has been detected. Here, we tested a set of these “suprathreshold” auditory processing abilities and related them to performance on a two‐part test of speech understanding in competition with and without spatial separation of the target and masking speech. Testing was administered in the Portable Automated Rapid Testing (PART) application developed by our team; PART facilitates psychoacoustic assessments of auditory processing. (2) Methods: Forty‐one individuals (average age 51 years), completed assessments of sensitivity to temporal fine structure (TFS) and spectrotemporal modulation (STM) detection via an iPad running the PART application. Statistical models were used to evaluate the strength of associations between performance on the auditory processing tasks and speech understanding in competition. Age and pure-tone‐average (PTA) were also included as potential predictors. (3) Results: The model providing the best fit also included age and a measure of diotic frequency modulation (FM) detection but none of the other potential predictors. However, even the best fitting models accounted for 31% or less of the variance, supporting work suggesting that other variables (e.g., cognitive processing abilities) also contribute significantly to speech understanding in noise. (4) Conclusions: The results of the current study do not provide strong support for previous suggestions that suprathreshold processing abilities alone can be used to explain difficulties in speech understanding in competition among older adults. This discrepancy could be due to the speech tests used, the listeners tested, or the suprathreshold tests chosen. Future work with larger numbers of participants is warranted, including a range of cognitive tests and additional assessments of suprathreshold auditory processing abilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number695
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • aging
  • auditory processing
  • hearing loss
  • speech perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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