Detecting and learning new words: The impact of advancing age and hearing loss

Andrea Pittman, Elizabeth C. Stewart, Ian S. Odgear, Amanda P. Willman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Scopus citations


    Purpose: Lexical acquisition was examined in children and adults to determine if the skills needed to detect and learn new words are retained in the adult years. In addition to advancing age, the effects of hearing loss were also examined. Method: Measures of word recognition, detection of nonsense words within sentences, and novel word learning were obtained in quiet for 20 children with normal hearing and 21 with hearing loss (8–12 years) as well as for 15 adults with normal hearing and 17 with hearing loss (58–79 years). Listeners with hearing loss were tested with and without high-frequency acoustic energy to identify the type of amplification (narrowband, wideband, or frequency lowering) that yielded optimal performance. Results: No differences were observed between the adults and children with normal hearing except for the adults’ better nonsense word detection. The poorest performance was observed for the listeners with hearing loss in the unaided condition. Performance improved significantly with amplification to levels at or near that of their counterparts with normal hearing. With amplification, the adults performed as well as the children on all tasks except for word recognition. Conclusions: Adults retain the skills necessary for lexical acquisition regardless of hearing status. However, uncorrected hearing loss nearly eliminates these skills.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)318-327
    Number of pages10
    JournalAmerican journal of audiology
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 2017

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Speech and Hearing


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