Previous research has shown the effects of task demands on pupil responses in both normal hearing (NH) and hearing impaired (HI) adults. One consistent finding is that HI listeners have smaller pupil dilations at low levels of speech recognition performance (≤50%). This study aimed to examine the pupil dilation in adults with a normal pure-tone audiogram who experience serious difficulties when processing speech-in-noise. Hence, 20 adults, aged 26 to 62 years, with traumatic brain injury (TBI) or cerebrovascular accident (CVA) but with a normal audiogram participated. Their pupil size was recorded while they listened to sentences masked by fluctuating noise or interfering speech at 50% and 84% intelligibility. In each condition, participants rated their perceived performance, effort, and task persistence. In addition, participants performed the text reception threshold task—a visual sentence completion task—that measured language-related processing. Data were compared with those of age-matched NH and HI participants with no neurological problems obtained in earlier studies using the same setup and design. The TBI group had the same pure-tone audiogram and text reception threshold scores as the NH listeners, yet their speech reception thresholds were significantly worse. Although the pupil dilation responses on average did not differ between groups, self-rated effort scores were highest in the TBI group. Results of a correlation analyses showed that TBI participants with worse speech reception thresholds had a smaller pupil response. We speculate that increased distractibility or fatigue affected the ability of TBI participants to allocate effort during speech perception in noise.
Koelewijn, T., van Haastrecht, J. A. P., & Kramer, S. E. (2018). Pupil Responses of Adults With Traumatic Brain Injury During Processing of Speech in Noise. Trends in Hearing, 22. https://doi.org/10.1177/2331216518811444