The Effects of Simulated Hearing Loss on Simultaneous Speech Recognition and Walking Navigation Tasks

Report No. ARl-TR-6335
Authors: Paul Fedele, Rachel Weatherless, Kathy Kehring, and Tomasz Letowski
Date/Pages: February 2013; 48 pages
Abstract: This study assessed whether a concurrent but independent navigation task exacerbates effects of hearing loss on speech recognition and whether hearing loss degrades performance of the navigation task when performed during the independent listening task. Previous studies showed that vehicle operation performance decreases when crew instruction communication is impaired, but it remains unknown how performance would be affected if the vehicle operation were independent of this communication process. Participants performed a listening task by responding to Callsign Acquisition Test (CAT) stimuli at three simulated hearing levels. For each hearing level, the participant performed one trial while stationary and another trial while navigating a path in a virtual environment using a hand-held map. Additionally, participants navigated a path with no CAT. The proportion of correctly repeated callsigns was used to measure speech recognition performance. The total walking time measured performance on the walking navigation task. CAT scores showed an expected negative effect of hearing loss. Concurrent navigation produced an even larger decrease in CAT scores. Hearing loss caused an insignificant decrease in navigation task performance. These results demonstrate that, while walking, a person with hearing loss may communicate less effectively than predicted from hearing loss alone. Conclusions and recommendations are given.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: February 1, 2013