INFLUENCE OF SUPPORTIVE CONTEXT AND STIMULUS VARIABILITY ON RAPID ADAPTATION TO NON-NATIVE SPEECH
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Older listeners, particularly those with age-related hearing loss, report a high level of difficulty in perception of non-native speech when queried in clinical settings. In an increasingly global society, addressing these challenges is an important component of providing auditory care and rehabilitation to this population. Prior literature shows that younger listeners can quickly adapt to both unfamiliar and challenging auditory stimuli, improving their perception over a short period of exposure. Prior work has suggested that a protocol including higher variability of the speech materials may be most beneficial for learning; variability within the stimuli may serve to provide listeners with a larger range of acoustic information to map onto higher level lexical representations. However, there is also evidence that increased acoustic variability is not beneficial for all listeners. Listeners also benefit from the presence of semantic context during speech recognition tasks. It is less clear, however, whether older listeners derive more benefit than younger listeners from supportive context; some studies find increased benefit for older listeners, while others find that the context benefit is similar in magnitude across age groups.This project comprises a series of experiments utilizing behavioral and electrophysiologic measures designed to examine the contributions of acoustic variability and semantic context in relation to speech recognition during the course of rapid adaptation to non-native English speech. Experiment 1 examined the effects of increasing stimulus variability on behavioral measures of rapid adaptation. The results of the study indicated that stimulus variability impacted overall levels of recognition, but did not affect rate of adaptation. This was confirmed in Experiment 2, which also showed that degree of semantic context influenced rate of adaptation, but not overall performance levels. In Experiment 3, younger and older normal-hearing adults showed similar rates of adaptation to a non-native talker regardless of context level, though talker accent and context level interacted to the detriment of older listeners’ speech recognition. When cortical responses were examined, younger and older normal-hearing listeners showed similar predictive processing effects for both native and non-native speech.