The language processing of Mandarin-accented English (MAE) by older hearing-impaired (OHI), older normally hearing (NH), and younger NH listeners was explored. We examined whether OHI adults have more difficulty than NH listeners in recognizing and adapting to MAE speech productions after receiving brief training with the accent.
Talker-independent adaptation was evaluated in an exposure training study design. Listeners were trained either by four MAE talkers or four Australian English talkers (control group) before listening to sentences presented by a novel MAE talker. Speech recognition for both the training sentences and the experimental sentences were compared between listener groups and between the training accents.
Listeners in all three groups (OHI, older NH, younger NH) who had been trained by the MAE talkers showed higher odds of speech recognition than listeners trained by the Australian English talkers. The OHI listeners adapted to MAE to the same degree as the NH groups despite returning lower overall odds of recognizing MAE speech.
Older listeners with mild-to-moderate hearing loss were able to benefit as much from brief exposure to MAE as did the NH groups. This encouraging result suggests that OHI listeners have access to and can exploit the information present in a relatively brief sample of accented speech and generalize their learning to a novel MAE talker.