Impact of long-term occupation-related experience on speech perception in noise
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Noise exposure can be deleterious to auditory function; experiences can enhance auditory function. What happens when these parameters coincide? In this study, we assessed speech perception in noise (SPIN) in bartenders, who are occupationally exposed to excessive environmental noise. To be successful at their job, bartenders need to be high functioning in noisy environments, and may adapt to the demands of SPIN. We assessed the extent to which auditory expertise could compensate for the deleterious effects of noise exposure. For this, we studied individuals with and without bartending experience. We divided the bartenders (BT) into two groups based on the number of years of bartending experience. The bartenders with less than 7 years of bartending experience were classified as Low BT Group and the remaining were classified as High BT Group. All participants were administered tasks to evaluate their SPIN and cognitive performance. We also measured their subjective and objective auditory function. Our results showed that High BT Group outperformed low BT Group in SPIN and cognitive tasks, but their performance was comparable to the controls in both sets of tasks. Based on the results we concluded that long-term auditory experience compensated for the impact of cumulative noise exposure on SPIN performance. Also, auditory expertise was associated with better cognitive function in the high BT Group. The results confirmed that enriched auditory experience involving high cognitive demand leads to better SPIN. However, this compensation, secondary to auditory expertise, was not strong enough to help the High BT Group to perform significantly better than participants with no BT experience.