Effortful listening:Sympathetic activity varies as a function of listening demand but parasympathetic activity does not

Slade, K. and Kramer, S.E. and Fairclough, S. and Richter, M. (2021) Effortful listening:Sympathetic activity varies as a function of listening demand but parasympathetic activity does not. Hearing Research, 410. ISSN 0378-5955

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Research on listening effort has used various physiological measures to examine the biological correlates of listening effort but a systematic examination of the impact of listening demand on cardiac autonomic nervous system activity is still lacking. The presented study aimed to close this gap by assessing cardiac sympathetic and parasympathetic responses to variations in listening demand. For this purpose, 45 participants performed four speech-in-noise tasks differing in listening demand—manipulated as signal-to-noise ratio varying between +23 dB and -16 dB—while their pre-ejection period and respiratory sinus arrythmia responses were assessed. Cardiac responses showed the expected effect of listening demand on sympathetic activity, but failed to provide evidence for the expected listening demand impact on parasympathetic activity: Pre-ejection period reactivity increased with increasing listening demand across the three possible listening conditions and was low in the very high (impossible) demand condition, whereas respiratory sinus arrythmia did not show this pattern. These findings have two main implications. First, cardiac sympathetic responses seem to be the more sensitive correlate of the impact of task demand on listening effort compared to cardiac parasympathetic responses. Second, very high listening demand may lead to disengagement and correspondingly low effort and reduced cardiac sympathetic response.

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Journal Article
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Hearing Research
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This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Hearing Research. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Hearing Research, 410, 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.heares.2021.108348
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01 Nov 2021 15:15
Last Modified:
15 Sep 2023 04:39