The impact of dialect on the ability to understand speech-in-noise
Difficulty understanding speech-in-noise (SIN) is one of the most commonly reported hearing issues for older adults. Thus, being able to accurately assess an individuals’ ability to understand SIN is of utmost importance. A number of standardized assessments have been developed to quantify this ability. These tests normally use pre-recorded speech as the target stimulus, and thus the language and dialect of each test cannot be easily modified. One issue that has received scant attention is how dialect impacts performance on a standardized SIN test. There is some evidence that it is more difficult to understand SIN in your native language, but not your native dialect. How this difficulty translates to a standardized, clinical SIN assessment is poorly understood. To address this issue, the QuickSIN was administered to a sample of native speakers of Newfoundland English. The QuickSIN is a standardized SIN assessment, and the target sentences are spoken in an English dialect that comes from the northern United States. The participants from Newfoundland performed outside the 95% CIs for the QuickSIN, despite having normal audiometric thresholds, which suggests that difficulties with dialect and not with hearing can contribute poorer performance on a SIN test in a clinical setting. The negative effect of dialect mismatch on clinical SIN assessments limits the ability for clinicians to accurately quantify SIN abilities in people whose native dialect does not match the test dialect.
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