Lexical Influences on Spoken Spondaic Word Recognition in Hearing-Impaired Patients
Front in Neurosci
Moulin A
Ricchard C

Top-down contextual influences play a major part in speech understanding, especially in hearing impaired patients with deteriorated auditory input. Those influences are most obvious in difficult listening situations, such as listening to sentences in noise but can also be observed at the word level under more favorable conditions, as in one of the most commonly used tasks in audiology, i.e., repeating isolated words in silence. This study aimed to explore the role of top down contextual influences and their dependence on lexical factors and patient-specific factors using standard clinical linguistic material. Spondaic word perception was tested in 160 hearing-impaired patients aged 23-88 years with a four-frequency average pure-tone threshold ranging from 21 to 88 dB HL. Sixty spondaic words were randomly presented at a level adjusted to correspond to a speech perception score ranging between 40 and 70% of the performance intensity function obtained using monosyllabic words. Phoneme and whole-word recognition scores were used to calculate two context-influence indices (the j factor and the ratio of word scores to phonemic scores) and were correlated with linguistic factors, such as the phonological neighborhood density and several indices of word occurrence frequencies. Contextual influence was greater for spondaic words than in similar studies using monosyllabic words, with an overall j factor of 2.07 (SD = 0.5). For both indices, context use decreased with increasing hearing loss once the average hearing loss exceeded 55 dB HL. In right-handed patients, significantly greater context influence was observed for words presented in the right ears than for words presented in the left, especially in patients with many years of education. The correlations between raw word scores (and context influence indices) and word occurrence frequencies showed a significant age-dependent effect, with a stronger correlation between perception scores and word occurrence frequencies when the occurrence frequencies were based on the years corresponding to the patients' youth, showing a "historic" word frequency effect. This effect was still observed for patients with few years of formal education, but recent occurrence frequencies based on current word exposure had a stronger influence for those patients, especially for younger ones.