The influence of hearing loss on cognitive control in an auditory conflict task: Behavioral and pupillometry findings

Adriana A. Zekveld*, Sophia E. Kramer, Henk van Steenbergen, J. A.M. van Scheepen, Niek J. Versfeld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: The pupil dilation response is sensitive not only to auditory task demand but also to cognitive conflict. Conflict is induced by incompatible trials in auditory Stroop tasks in which participants have to identify the presentation location (left or right ear) of the words “left” or “right.” Previous studies demonstrated that the compatibility effect is reduced if the trial is preceded by another incompatible trial (conflict adaptation). Here, we investigated the influence of hearing status on cognitive conflict and conflict adaptation in an auditory Stroop task. Method: Two age-matched groups consisting of 32 normalhearing participants (Mage = 52 years, age range: 25–67 years) and 28 participants with hearing impairment (Mage = 52 years, age range: 23–64 years) performed an auditory Stroop task. We assessed the effects of hearing status and stimulus compatibility on reaction times (RTs) and pupil dilation responses. We furthermore analyzed the Pearson correlation coefficients between age, degree of hearing loss, and the compatibility effects on the RT and pupil response data across all participants. Results: As expected, the RTs were longer and pupil dilation was larger for incompatible relative to compatible trials. Furthermore, these effects were reduced for trials following incompatible (as compared to compatible) trials (conflict adaptation). No general effect of hearing status was observed, but the correlations suggested that higher age and a larger degree of hearing loss were associated with more interference of current incompatibility on RTs. Conclusions: Conflict processing and adaptation effects were observed on the RTs and pupil dilation responses in an auditory Stroop task. No general effects of hearing status were observed, but the correlations suggested that higher age and a greater degree of hearing loss were related to reduced conflict processing ability. The current study underlines the relevance of taking into account cognitive control and conflict adaptation processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2483-2492
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

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