WALTHAM, Mass. -- Our society's growing noise and fast pace may be exacting a particularly steep toll among older people, researchers at Brandeis University have found. Their study indicates that older adults’ occasional difficulties in following conversation may arise from simple background noise and mile-a-minute talkers -- not failing hearing, which affects fewer than 40 percent of those over age 75. Even more troublesome for older adults is what Brandeis researcher Patricia Tun has dubbed "fast, noisy talk," the double whammy of fast speech and a noisy background. These situations -- such as speedy instructions fired off by a doctor or nurse in a loud emergency room -- cause seniors’ speech comprehension to lag even further behind that of their younger peers.
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