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Cognitive processing load across a wide range of listening conditions: Insights from pupillometry

Authors

  • Adriana A. Zekveld,

    Corresponding author
    1. ENT/Audiology and the EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    2. Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
    3. Linnaeus Centre HEAD, The Swedish Institute for Disability Research, Linköping and Örebro Universities, Linköping, Sweden
    • Address correspondence to: Adriana A. Zekveld, ENT/Audiology and the EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, P.O. Box 7057, 1007 MB Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail: aa.zekveld@vumc.nl

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  • Sophia E. Kramer

    1. ENT/Audiology and the EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • This study was supported by grants from The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. We thank J. H. M. van Beek for his technical assistance in the development of the test and data analysis software.

Abstract

The pupil response to speech masked by interfering speech was assessed across an intelligibility range from 0% to 99% correct. In total, 37 participants aged between 18 and 36 years and with normal hearing were included. Pupil dilation was largest at intermediate intelligibility levels, smaller at high intelligibility, and slightly smaller at very difficult levels. Participants who reported that they often gave up listening at low intelligibility levels had smaller pupil dilations in these conditions. Participants who were good at reading masked text had relatively large pupil dilation when intelligibility was low. We conclude that the pupil response is sensitive to processing load, and possibly reflects cognitive overload in difficult conditions. It seems affected by methodological aspects and individual abilities, but does not reflect subjective ratings.

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