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Your spouse's voice is easier to hear -- and easier to ignore
Date:8/28/2013

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Middle-aged adults seemed to be relatively adept at following the unfamiliar voice, especially when it was masked by their spouse's voice that is, they were better at understanding the unfamiliar voice when it was masked by their spouse's voice compared to when it was masked by another unfamiliar voice.

"The middle-aged adults were able to use what they knew about the familiar voice to perceptually separate and ignore it, so as to hear the unfamiliar voice better," Johnsrude explains.

But performance on these trials declined as the participants went up in age the older the participant was, the less able he or she was to report correctly what the unfamiliar voice was saying.

"Middle-age people can ignore their spouse older people aren't able to as much," Johnsrude concludes.

The researchers suggest that as people age, their ability to use what they know about voices to perceptually organize an auditory 'scene' may become compromised.

While this may make it more difficult for older adults to pick out an unfamiliar voice, it has an interesting consequence: The relative benefit of having a familiar voice as the target actually increases with age.

"These findings speak to a problem that is very common amongst older individuals difficulty hearing speech when there is background sound," Johnsrude says. "Our study identifies a cognitive factor voice familiarity that could help older listeners to hear better in these situations."


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Contact: Anna Mikulak
amikulak@psychologicalscience.org
202-293-9300
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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