Spatial Hearing in Elderly Individuals with a Range of Age-Related Hearing Loss
The spatial hearing abilities of individuals with hearing loss, especially those who are elderly, have been investigated mostly in the context of localizing a single, stationary sound source in a quiet setting. Real world environments require listeners to make decisions when there are multiple sounds, often while the sound sources or the listener are in motion. This study focused on the spatial hearing abilities of older adults (60+) with a range of hearing losses, including hearing aid users and those without hearing aids. Two traditional "simple" measurements of spatial hearing abilities, minimum audible angle and minimum audible movement angle, were assessed, as well as "complex" tests of motion acceleration/deceleration discrimination and perception of directional alignment to a linear motion path. For all four spatial hearing tasks, there were no group differences between participants who had diagnosed hearing losses and used hearing aids and participants who did not use hearing aids. Subsequent analyses focused on associations between the tasks, as well as associations with age, degree of hearing loss, and self-rated quality of hearing in everyday life. The results suggest that simpler tasks, of the minimum audible angle variety, are dissociated from more complex tasks that require subtle judgments about motion trajectories. In addition to the elderly participants, a small group of participants in their early 20's was tested, to provide benchmarks of performance by those without hearing loss or other age-related problems.