Semin Hear 2001; 22(3): 227-240
DOI: 10.1055/s-2001-15628
Copyright © 2001 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA. Tel.: +1(212) 584-4662

Age-Related Changes in Temporal Processing: Implications for Speech Perception

Bruce A. Schneider1 , M. Kathleen Pichora-Fuller2
  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and
  • 2School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
31 December 2001 (online)


Two aspects of age-related declines in auditory temporal processing may contribute to the difficulties that older adults have perceiving speech in everyday listening situations: ability to code the temporal properties of the envelope; and the temporal fine structure of speech. Gap detection and duration discrimination play a role in coding temporal properties of the envelope, including cues to phoneme contrasts. Significant age-related declines are found in these psychoacoustic measures but only when sounds are short; corresponding age-related declines are found in discriminating specific phonemic contrasts based on gaps. Significant correlations between gap detection thresholds and word recognition are found, at least in some studies, in conditions of noise, reverberation, or speeded speech. It is suggested that coding of the temporal fine structure of speech is compromised by age-related loss of neural synchrony. Loss of synchrony in older adults could account for poorer frequency discrimination at low frequencies and problems using harmonic structure to segregate voices from competing signals. These declines in temporal processing are observed in older adults with good audiograms and are not correlated with audiometric threshold. More informed audiological management and rehabilitation requires the consideration of specific age-related temporal processing declines.