Effects of age and hearing loss on articulatory precision for sibilants

Koch, X., & Janse, E. (2015). Effects of age and hearing loss on articulatory precision for sibilants. In M. Wolters, J. Livingstone, B. Beattie, R. Smith, M. MacMahon, J. Stuart-Smith, & J. Scobbie (Eds.), Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS 2015). London: International Phonetic Association.
This study investigates the effects of adult age and speaker abilities on articulatory precision for sibilant productions. Normal-hearing young adults with better sibilant discrimination have been shown to produce greater spectral sibilant contrasts. As reduced auditory feedback may gradually impact on feedforward commands, we investigate whether articulatory precision as indexed by spectral mean for [s] and [S] decreases with age, and more particularly with agerelated hearing loss. Younger, middle-aged and older adults read aloud words starting with the sibilants [s] or [S]. Possible effects of cognitive, perceptual, linguistic and sociolinguistic background variables on the sibilants’ acoustics were also investigated. Sibilant contrasts were less pronounced for male than female speakers. Most importantly, for the fricative [s], the spectral mean was modulated by individual high-frequency hearing loss, but not age. These results underscore that even mild hearing loss already affects articulatory precision.
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