Working Memory and Speech Comprehension in Older Adults With Hearing Impairment Purpose This study examined the relationship between working memory (WM) and speech comprehension in older adults with hearing impairment (HI). It was hypothesized that WM would explain significant variance in speech comprehension measured in multitalker babble (MTB). Method Twenty-four older (59–73 years) adults with sensorineural HI participated. WM ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 17, 2017
Working Memory and Speech Comprehension in Older Adults With Hearing Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Naveen K. Nagaraj
    Cognitive Hearing Science Lab, Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences/University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • Disclosure: The author has declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The author has declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Naveen K. Nagaraj: NKNagaraj@uams.edu
  • Editor-in-Chief: Frederick (Erick) Gallun
    Editor-in-Chief: Frederick (Erick) Gallun×
  • Editor: Daniel Fogerty
    Editor: Daniel Fogerty×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Hearing / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 17, 2017
Working Memory and Speech Comprehension in Older Adults With Hearing Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2017, Vol. 60, 2949-2964. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-H-17-0022
History: Received January 18, 2017 , Revised May 2, 2017 , Accepted May 15, 2017
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2017, Vol. 60, 2949-2964. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-H-17-0022
History: Received January 18, 2017; Revised May 2, 2017; Accepted May 15, 2017

Purpose This study examined the relationship between working memory (WM) and speech comprehension in older adults with hearing impairment (HI). It was hypothesized that WM would explain significant variance in speech comprehension measured in multitalker babble (MTB).

Method Twenty-four older (59–73 years) adults with sensorineural HI participated. WM capacity (WMC) was measured using 3 complex span tasks. Speech comprehension was assessed using multiple passages, and speech identification ability was measured using recall of sentence final-word and key words. Speech measures were performed in quiet and in the presence of MTB at + 5 dB signal-to-noise ratio.

Results Results suggested that participants' speech identification was poorer in MTB, but their ability to comprehend discourse in MTB was at least as good as in quiet. WMC did not explain significant variance in speech comprehension before and after controlling for age and audibility. However, WMC explained significant variance in low-context sentence key words identification in MTB.

Conclusions These results suggest that WMC plays an important role in identifying low-context sentences in MTB, but not when comprehending semantically rich discourse passages. In general, data did not support individual variability in WMC as a factor that predicts speech comprehension ability in older adults with HI.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by a Medical Research Endowment grant from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to the author. I would like to thank Nancy Tye-Murray and Mitchell Sommers for providing the Lectures, Interview, and Spoken Narratives Test. Thanks to Beula Magimairaj and Tom Guyette for their insight and helpful comments, and to Michelle O'Malley for speech stimuli recordings.
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