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Speech audiometry in Cantonese and other non-native English speakers : the use of digits and Cantonese words as stimuli Siu, Carrie K

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to investigate validity and accuracy issues with the use of English speech audiometry on non-native English speakers. Two widely used tests of speech audiometry, Speech Recognition Threshold (SRT) and Word Recognition Score (WRS) were measured on 45 participants with English as a non-native language. The effects of test stimuli (English words versus English digits versus Cantonese words) and the correlations between language background factors (length of residence, age of exposure, years of instruction, birthplace, first language, preferred language, home language, daily language use, English TV and internet use) and the performance of SRT and WRS were analyzed. English digit pairs were found to be a more accurate measure of hearing threshold for English speech than English words, but Cantonese words elicited the lowest audiometric thresholds from the Cantonese-speaking participants. Age and birthplace were found to significantly correlate with the extent to which speech audiometric performance will be affected by the language of test stimuli. An analysis of the differences in English and Cantonese speech acoustic spectra was provided, and the implication that hearing levels measured using English speech-based stimuli might not reflect real life impairment for non-native English speakers was discussed. Clinical implications include being cautious in applying test results to real life impairment for non-native English-speaking clients, so as to avoid over-estimating the need for amplification and misdiagnosis of the nature of hearing loss. When administering speech audiometry on non-native English speakers, familiarization to test materials before SRT testing, the use of digit pairs as SRT stimuli, and the use of subjective questionnaires to assess listening need and impairment are recommended.

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