We examined the effect of age on speech understanding and multitask costs in the ecologically relevant “Audiovisual True-to-Life Assessment of Auditory Rehabilitation”-paradigm (AVATAR).
Twenty-nine normal-hearing middle-aged adults completed AVATAR, which combines an auditory-visual speech-in-noise task with three secondary tasks on auditory localization or visual short-term memory in different dual-, triple-, and quadruple-task combinations. Performance decrements on the secondary tasks were considered to reflect the cognitive resources allocated during listening. Self-reported hearing difficulties were administered via a questionnaire. Results were compared with scores of 35 young normal-hearing adults.
Middle-aged adults performed consistently worse than young adults on speech understanding and, in the triple- and quadruple-task combinations only, on secondary task performance. Furthermore, middle-agers reported higher levels of daily listening concentration and more difficulties with speech understanding.
This study demonstrated the adverse effect of age on speech-in-noise understanding and the amount of allocated cognitive resources during challenging listening situations realized in AVATAR.