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The influence of linguistic skills on speech recognition in noise in listeners with normal hearing and
cochlear implant users
Smits C. , Kaandorp M.W. , Merkus P. , de Groot A.M. , Goverts S.T.
VU University Medical Center, Section Audiology, Department of Otorhinolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery, Amsterdam, Netherlands,
University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Intro: In counseling hearing-impaired people, judgment of cochlear-implant or hearing-aid candidacy, and
evaluation of rehabilitation progress there is need for a more detailed understanding of factors that influence
speech recognition in noise. Here we present studies on the influence of linguistic skills on speech recognition, in
listeners with normal hearing and CI users.
Methods: In a first study Speech Reception Thresholds (SRTs) were measured for sentences in steady-state
and fluctuating noise and digit-triplets in steady-state noise (DIN). Lexical-access ability was measured with a
lexical-decision test and a word-naming test. Also vocabulary size was measured. To introduce variation in
linguistic skills, three groups of 24 young listeners with normal hearing were included: high-educated native,
lower-educated native, and high-educated non-native listeners. In a second study we measured digit-triplets and
sentences in steady-state noise in 30 CI users. Next to lexical access and vocabulary size the non-auditory test
battery also included a reading span test and a Text Reception Threshold (TRT) test.
Results: In listeners with normal hearing, lexical-access ability was most accurately measured with combined
results of lexical decision and word naming. Lexical access explained about 60% of the variance in SRT
outcome. The DIN test was hardly influenced by linguistic abilities. CI-users score in the same range as nonnatives on Lexical access. Their values for vocabulary size, TRT and reading span are in the normal range. The
relation between speech recognition and linguistic abilities is, as expected influenced by reduced auditory
processing. This relation will be presented in more detail.
Conclusion: Lexical access ability is, more than vocabulary size, an important predictor of SRTs in normal
hearing listeners.