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Feasibility Study to Quantify the Auditory and Social Environment of Older Adults Using a Digital Language Processor

Li, Lingsheng*; Vikani, Ami R.; Harris, Gregory C.‡§; Lin, Frank R.§∥

doi: 10.1097/MAO.0000000000000489
Research Methodology

Objective To investigate the feasibility of using a digital language processor (DLP) to objectively quantify the auditory and social environment of older adults.

Design Thirty-seven participants aged 64 to 91 years residing in a retirement community were asked to wear a DLP to record their auditory and language environment during 1 waking day. Recordings were analyzed with specialized software to derive quantitative estimates such as the number of spoken words heard and percentage of time spent around meaningful speech versus television/radio.

Results Adequate DLP recordings that began before 10 AM and lasted for 10 hours or greater were collected from 24 participants. The mean duration of recording was 13 hours and 13 minutes, and individuals spent a mean of 26.7% (range, 4%–58%) of their waking day near a television or other electronic sounds. The projected mean word count over a maximum of 16 hours was 33,141 with nearly a 14-fold range between the lowest and highest observed values (range, 5120–77,882).

Conclusions High-quality objective data on the auditory environment of older adults can be feasibly measured with the DLP. Findings from this study may guide future studies investigating auditory and language outcomes in older adults.

*University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; †The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, District of Columbia; ‡Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; §Center on Aging and Health, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions; and ∥Departments of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Geriatric Medicine, and Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Frank R. Lin, M.D., Ph.D., Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health, 2024 E. Monument St., Suite 2-700, Baltimore, MD 21205, E-mail:

Conflict of Interest: Dr. Lin reported serving as a consultant to Pfizer, Autifony, and Cochlear Corp. and receiving speaker’s fees from Amplifon. No other author reported any disclosures.

Funding: This study was supported by grant 1K23DC011279 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, with further funding from the Triological Society and the American College of Surgeons through a clinician scientist award and from the Eleanor Schwartz Charitable Foundation.

Copyright © 2014 by Otology & Neurotology, Inc. Image copyright © 2010 Wolters Kluwer Health/Anatomical Chart Company