Went to an excellent conference in Indiana on cognition and speech communication. Discussion was on how our cognitive ability changes as we age and what the impact is on speech understanding. Some interesting non-scientific facts (and not necessarily new):
- Standard measures of our cognitive function decline approximately 1% per year starting age 20.
- Older people are generally poorer at understanding speech in noise than younger people even if their hearing ability as measured by the audiogram is the same as the younger group.
- Multiple measures of cognition and the auditory system demonstrate age-related slowing of behavior and neural signaling.
- Neural inhibition degenerates with age and this may affect our ability to inhibit or ignore unwanted sounds, such as that annoying person sitting at the table beside us while we are concentrating on the person speaking at our own table.
- As we get older, our brain works harder to compensate for our aging ears and to understand speech in noisy situations, but those extra cognitive resources added take away from other abilities like remembering what we are hearing.
Many of the talks were right in line with either experiments or general guiding concepts at the Starkey hearing Research Center (SHRC), so I'm very glad that I went--see my recent interview on cognition and the SHRC.