This study examined the ability of young and older adults to make use of partial information in degraded isolated words, presented auditorily and visually. Results showed that this ability diminished with age. In younger adults, both modality-specific and amodal cognitive factors seemed to play a role. In elderly listeners, modality-specific factors were important, but perceptual mechanisms underlying the processing of degraded speech and text seemed to be separate, at least for isolated words. Results suggested that, when peripheral factors were accounted for, some higher-level, yet-to-be identified, age-related factors contributed to speech-communication difficulties in the elderly.