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Hearing loss is associated with delayed neural responses to continuous speech
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
We investigated the impact of hearing loss on the neural processing of speech. Using a forward modelling approach, we compared the neural responses to continuous speech of 14 adults with sensorineural hearing loss with those of age-matched normal-hearing peers. Compared with their normal-hearing peers, hearing-impaired listeners had increased neural tracking and delayed neural responses to continuous speech in quiet. The latency also increased with the degree of hearing loss. As speech understanding decreased, neural tracking decreased in both populations; however, a significantly different trend was observed for the latency of the neural responses. For normal-hearing listeners, the latency increased with increasing background noise level. However, for hearing-impaired listeners, this increase was not observed. Our results support the idea that the neural response latency indicates the efficiency of neural speech processing: More or different brain regions are involved in processing speech, which causes longer communication pathways in the brain. These longer communication pathways hamper the information integration among these brain regions, reflected in longer processing times. Altogether, this suggests decreased neural speech processing efficiency in HI listeners as more time and more or different brain regions are required to process speech. Our results suggest that this reduction in neural speech processing efficiency occurs gradually as hearing deteriorates. From our results, it is apparent that sound amplification does not solve hearing loss. Even when listening to speech in silence at a comfortable loudness, hearing-impaired listeners process speech less efficiently.
Journal: European Journal of Neuroscience
Pages: 1671 - 1690