Auditory working memory explains variance in speech recognition in older listeners under adverse listening conditions

Subong Kim, Inyong Choi, Adam T. Schwalje, Kyoosang Kim, Jae Hee Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: Older listeners have difficulty understanding speech in unfavorable listening conditions. To compensate for acoustic degradation, cognitive processing skills, such as working memory, need to be engaged. Despite prior findings on the association between working memory and speech recognition in various listening conditions, it is not yet clear whether the modality of stimuli presentation for working memory tasks should be auditory or visual. Given the modality-specific characteristics of working memory, we hypothesized that auditory working memory capacity could predict speech recognition performance in adverse listening conditions for older listeners and that the contribution of auditory working memory to speech recognition would depend on the task and listening condition. Methods: Seventy-six older listeners and twenty younger listeners completed four kinds of auditory working memory tasks, including digit and speech span tasks, and sentence recognition tasks in four different listening conditions having multi-talker noise and time-compression. For older listeners, cognitive function was screened using the Mini-Mental Status Examination, and audibility was assured. Results: Auditory working memory, as measured by listening span, significantly predicted speech recognition performance in adverse listening conditions for older listeners. A linear regression model showed speech recognition performance for older listeners could be explained by auditory working memory whilst controlling for the impact of age and hearing sensitivity. Discussion: Measuring working memory in the auditory modality facilitated explaining the variance in speech recognition in adverse listening conditions for older listeners. The linguistic features and the complexity of the auditory stimuli may affect the association between working memory and speech recognition performance. Conclusion: We demonstrated the contribution of auditory working memory to speech recognition in unfavorable listening conditions in older populations. Taking the modality-specific characteristics of working memory into account may be a key to better understand the difficulty in speech recognition in daily listening conditions for older listeners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-406
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Interventions in Aging
Volume15
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Age
  • Auditory working memory
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech recognition

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