Use of supportive context by younger and older adult listeners: balancing bottom-up and top-down information processing.
ABSTRACT Older adults often have more difficulty listening in challenging environments than their younger adult counterparts. On the one hand, auditory aging can exacerbate and/or masquerade as cognitive difficulties when auditory processing is stressed in challenging listening situations. On the other hand, an older listener can overcome some auditory processing difficulties by deploying compensatory cognitive processing, especially when there is supportive context. Supportive context may be provided by redundant cues in the external signal(s) and/or by internally stored knowledge about structures that are functionally significant in communication. It seems that listeners may achieve correct word identification in various ways depending on the challenges and supports available in complex auditory scenes. We will review evidence suggesting that older adults benefit as much or more than younger adults from supportive context at multiple levels where expectations or constraints may be related to redundancies in semantic, syntactic, lexical, phonological, or other sub-phonemic cues in the signal, and/or to expert knowledge of structures at these levels.