Background: Difficulty understanding speech is a common complaint of older adults. In quiet, speech perception is often assumed to be relatively automatic. However, higher-level cognitive processes play a key role in successful communication in noise. Limited cognitive resources in adults with dementia may therefore hamper word recognition. Objective: The goal of this study was to determine the impact of mild dementia on spoken word recognition in quiet and noise. Methods: Participants were 53-86 years with (n = 16) or without (n = 32) dementia symptoms as classified by the Clinical Dementia Rating scale. Participants performed a word identification task with two levels of word difficulty (few and many similar sounding words) in quiet and in noise at two signal-to-noise ratios, +6 and +3 dB. Our hypothesis was that listeners with mild dementia symptoms would have more difficulty with speech perception in noise under conditions that tax cognitive resources. Results: Listeners with mild dementia symptoms had poorer task accuracy in both quiet and noise, which held after accounting for differences in age and hearing level. Notably, even in quiet, adults with dementia symptoms correctly identified words only about 80% of the time. However, word difficulty was not a factor in task performance for either group. Conclusion: These results affirm the difficulty that listeners with mild dementia may have with spoken word recognition, both in quiet and in background noise, consistent with a role of cognitive resources in spoken word identification.
- speech intelligibility
- word processing