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Shahina Pardhan, Silvia Cirstea, Andrew Kolarik, Brian Moore; Do visually impaired participants hear better? An evaluation of self report using a modified version of Speech, Spatial and Qualities of Hearing Scale. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2013;54(15):2774.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Literature suggests that visually impaired participants may perform better than sighted participants on auditory tasks. This is more apparent in participants with severe visual impairment. However, it is not known whether these participants perceive their hearing to be better than normally sighted participants. We modified the Speech, Spatial and Qualities of Hearing questionnaire for use by visually impaired participants. Visual aspects were removed from ten items, but modifications were kept minimal, so as to maintain the meaning of the original items. The modified questionnaire addresses a large variety of auditory scenarios and assesses situations which visually-impaired participants find most demanding, and those which present little difficulty.
The modified SSQ was administered to 8 participants with severe visual impairment but who had normal hearing. Age-matched sighted participants with normal hearing acted as controls. Items assessed self report for speech comprehension in the presence or absence of competing speech or noise, and spatial aspects of hearing including judgements of direction and distance. Qualities of the listening experience such as perceived effort and sound identification were also assessed.
In the speech domain, Mann-Whitney U tests showed that participants with severe visual impairment reported significantly more difficulties (p<0.05) than sighted participants in scenarios where multiple sound sources were present, and the scenario required noise or competing sound sources to be ignored. Significant differences were not observed in the spatial or qualities domains.
Although there have been many reports of enhanced auditory abilities of participants with severe visual impairment, especially within the spatial domain, the present findings suggest that sensory compensation is not perceived to confer benefit in their daily lives. The self-reported increased difficulty for a subset of the speech items is a consequence of the lack of visual cues, which, apart from precluding lip-reading, may lead to increased difficulties in separating objects in complex auditory scenes and to higher susceptibility to informational masking.
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