Thordis Neger -
Speech is highly variable: the acoustic realization of a speech sound differs depending on e.g. talker, speech rate and speech quality. In order to understand speech, listeners have to learn to map this variable input onto the same percept. Such perceptual learning requires cognitive effort. It may take several words before an unfamiliar talker is understood as easily as a familiar talker. Although we are exposed regularly to situations of perceptual learning in everyday life, people show considerable variability in tasks of perceptual learning.
First-time hearing-aid users need processes of perceptual learning to adapt to a completely new listening condition. It has been shown that processes of reorganization take time during the first weeks of adjustment. However, it is unclear which types of reorganization take place and why patients differ enormously in their benefit from hearing aids.
As a speech-language therapist and speech-language pathologist these individual differences strike me. If we consider individual differences in our approaches we can learn more about speech comprehension in everyday listening situations. By exploring the auditory and cognitive correlates of perceptual learning in speech I want to help to answer the question what makes a listener a good listener.