Good auditory ecology for active and healthy aging
Background: One-third of people over the age of 65 have a hearing impairment that affects everyday conversation. Hearing impairment is also associated with several physical, cognitive, and psychosocial health problems. Hearing aids have limited value in noisy environments. Ergonomic listening environments or good auditory ecology is therefore needed. However, we have limited knowledge of the auditory ecology that older people encounter, and how the auditory ecology affects communication for this group. Purpose: The purpose of the project is twofold: Firstly, to investigate the auditory ecology encountered by older people in their daily lives, and secondly to investigate how auditory ecology affects their communication. Method: The project includes three studies. In Study 1, we will investigate auditory ecology in real-time using our novel version of Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA). Our EMA technique combines objective (yet integrity-protected) recording of the acoustic environment, simultaneously with subjective assessment (listening activity, listening effort, speech understanding, motivation, and acoustic environment). In Studies 2 and 3 we will investigate how the auditory ecology identified in Study 1 affects speech recognition (Study 2) and dialogue (Study 3) in older people, under controlled laboratory conditions. In Study 2, we will use the Swedish hearing in noise test (HINT) to study the effect of auditory ecology identified using EMA on speech recognition. In Study 3, we will use Diapix (a ‘spot the difference’ picture task performed in pairs) to study the effect of auditory ecology identified using EMA on communicative efficiency. In Study 3, we will also study associations between communicative efficiency and listening effort, fatigue, cognitive abilities, motivation, quality of life and psychosocial health. For the project, we will recruit 72 participants aged 65 – 80 years (with equal numbers of men and women). This is required to achieve 95% power for ANOVA’s and 80% power for correlations. Half (36) will take part in all three studies. The other 36 (matched on age and gender to the first group) will take part as dialogue partners in study 3. We will test hearing, screen for cognitive decline and assess quality of life, psychosocial health, and hearing disability for all 72 participants. Implications: The results can be used to facilitate active and healthy aging by promoting ergonomic listening and increased participation. Results will also form a knowledge base for good auditory ecology and better hearing rehabilitation for older people.