Toronto Metropolitan University

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Tune In or Tune Out: Age-Related Differences in Listening to Speech in Music

journal contribution
posted on 2024-03-21, 18:42 authored by Frank RussoFrank Russo, M. Kathleen Pichora-Fuller
Objectives: To examine age-related differences in listening to speech in music.
Design: In the first experiment, the effect of music familiarity on word identification was compared with a standard measure of word identification in multitalker babble. The average level of the backgrounds was matched and two speech-to-background ratios were tested. In the second experiment, recognition recall was measured for background music heard during a word identification task.
Results: For older adults, word identification did not depend on the type of background, but for younger adults word identification was better when the background was familiar music than when it was unfamiliar music or babble. Younger listeners remembered background music better than older listeners, with the pattern of false alarms suggesting that younger listeners consciously processed the background music more than older listeners. In other words, younger listeners attempted to “tune in” the music background, but older listeners attempted to “tune out” the background.
Conclusions: These findings reveal age-related differences in listening to speech in music. When older listeners are confronted with a music background they tend to focus attention on the speech foreground. In contrast, younger listeners attend to both the speech foreground and music background. When music is familiar, this strategy adopted by younger listeners seems to be beneficial to word identification.




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