Estimates of the ability to make use of sentence context in 34 postlingually hearing-impaired (HI) individuals were obtained using formulas developed by Boothroyd and Nittrouer [Boothroyd and Nittrouer, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 84, 101-114 (1988)] which relate scores for isolated words to words in meaningful sentences. Sentence materials were constructed by concatenating digitized productions of isolated words to ensure physical equivalence among the test items in the two conditions. Isolated words and words in sentences were tested at three levels of intelligibility (targeting 29%, 50%, and 79% correct). Thus, for each subject, three estimates of context ability, or k factors, were obtained. In addition, auditory, visual, and auditory-visual sentence recognition was evaluated using natural productions of sentence materials. Two main questions were addressed: (1) Is context ability constant for speech materials produced with different degrees of clarity? and (2) What are the relations between individual estimates of k and sentence recognition as a function of presentation modality? Results showed that estimates of k were not constant across different levels of intelligibility: k was greater for the more degraded condition relative to conditions of higher word intelligibility. Estimates of k also were influenced strongly by the test order of isolated words and words in sentences. That is, prior exposure to words in sentences improved later recognition of the same words when presented in isolation (and vice versa), even though the 1500 key words comprising the test materials were presented under degraded (filtered) conditions without feedback. The impact of this order effect was to reduce individual estimates of k for subjects exposed to sentence materials first and to increase estimates of k for subjects exposed to isolated words first. Finally, significant relationships were found between individual k scores and sentence recognition scores in all three presentation modalities, suggesting that k is a useful measure of individual differences in the ability to use sentence context. (C) 2000 Acoustical Society of America.