Effects of hearing loss, age, noise exposure, and listening skills on envelope regularity discrimination.
The envelope regularity discrimination (ERD) test assesses the ability to discriminate irregular from regular amplitude modulation (AM). The measured threshold is called the irregularity index (II). It was hypothesized that the II at threshold should be almost unaffected by the loudness recruitment that is associated with cochlear hearing loss because the effect of recruitment is similar to multiplying the AM depth by a certain factor, and II values depend on the amount of envelope irregularity relative to the baseline modulation depth. To test this hypothesis, the ERD test was administered to 60 older adults with varying degrees of hearing loss, using carrier frequencies of 1 and 4 kHz. The II values for the two carrier frequencies were highly correlated, indicating that the ERD test was measuring a consistent characteristic of each subject. The II values at 1 and 4 kHz were not significantly correlated with the audiometric thresholds at the corresponding frequencies, consistent with the hypothesis. The II values at 4 kHz were significantly positively correlated with age. There was an unexpected negative correlation between II values and a measure of noise exposure. This is argued to reflect the confounding effects of listening skills.