This investigation examined how age and test condition affect one's ability to comprehend discourse passages, and determined whether age and test condition affect discourse comprehension and closed-set sentence recognition in a similar way. Young and older adults were tested with closed-set sentences from the newly-created build-a-sentence test (BAS) and a series of discourse passages in two audiovisual conditions: favorable, where the talker's head was clearly visible and the signal-to-babble ratio (SBR) was more optimal; and unfavorable, where the contrast sensitivity of the visual signal was reduced and the SBR was less optimal. The older participants recognized fewer words in the BAS than the young participants in both test conditions. Degrading the viewing and listening conditions led to a greater decline in their performance than in the young participants' performance. The older participants also did not perform as well at comprehending spoken discourse in the two test conditions. However, unlike the results from the BAS, the age difference for discourse comprehension was not exacerbated by unfavorable conditions. When attempting to comprehend discourse, older adults may draw upon verbal and cognitive abilities that are relatively insensitive to age.
- Audiovisual speech recognition
- Closed-set sentence test
- Discourse comprehension