EEG Study of Effortful Listening

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Adults with hearing loss typically experience difficulty understanding speech and report increased mental effort or listening effort (Pichora-Fuller et al. 2016). Over time, or in difficult listening conditions, listening effort can cause stress and mental fatigue, contributing to negative psychosocial consequences (e.g., social withdrawal) or limited/discontinued hearing-aid use (Eckert, et al., 2016; Pichora-Fuller, 2007). Additionally, the amount of listening effort required to recognize speech varies by individual and by listening condition (Pichora-Fuller, Kramer, Eckert, et al., 2016). Therefore, having a way to measure and account for listening effort in individual hearing aid fittings and aural rehabilitation plans may improve satisfaction and eventual hearing aid retention in those with hearing loss. Few objective measures are available to reliably predict listening effort in real world environments and many effort-related measures do not consider the specific neural systems that underlie listening effort (Zekveld et al., 2010; Smith et al. 2016; McMahon et al. 2016). The purpose of this study is to evaluate an electroencephalogram (EEG)-based method for quantifying listening effort based on the power of the cortical EEG response. Spectral power estimates within different EEG frequency domains that represent the activity of attention-related neural systems were calculated and included: (1) low-frequency alpha (8-10 Hz; LFA) power that has been associated with increased working memory task demands (Klimesch, 1999); (2) high-frequency alpha (10-13 Hz; HFA) power that has been associated with semantic memory and cognitive demands (Klimesch, 1999); and (3) theta (4-7 Hz) power that has been associated with encoding information (Klimesch, 1999) and increased listening effort (Wisniewski et al., 2015). The EEG data was collected during administration of the Words-In-Noise test (WIN; Wilson et al., 2003) and the Word Auditory Recognition and Recall Measure (WARRM; Smith et al., 2016) that induce listening effort due to low signal-to-noise ratio and due to auditory working memory demand, respectively. The results of correlations among EEG power in the three frequency ranges, WIN performance, WAARM performance, and self-report measures of listening effort will be presented. These results will be supported by independent component source analysis of EEG frequencies for regions of interest predicted to contribute to listening effort, including the frontal midline, auditory cortex, and parietal lobe. The EEG measures are expected to collectively explain task performance and self-reported listening effort.


Tampa, FL

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