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Effects of age and working memory in understanding speech in conversational noise - HEARing CRC PhD presentation
Effects of age and working memory capacity on understanding speech in conversational noise
Julie Beadle, Christopher Davis, Jeesun Kim
The MARCS Institute, Western Sydney University
• Adults 40+ with good audiograms report
difficulties understanding speech in
• Differences in Working Memory Capacity
(WMC) are associated with the ability to
understand speech in noise (SiN) among
listeners with hearing impairment. However,
with normal hearing listeners, the relationship
• SiN tests used to evaluate the relationship
between WMC and SiN understanding do not
reflect real life communication, thus, previous
research may have underestimated the effect
• Individuals with normal hearing (i.e., pure-tone thresholds of 25 dB HL or better at
octave frequencies from 0.25 to 4 kHz in both ears and at 6 kHz in at least one ear) are
assigned to 1 of 6 groups based on their age and WMC4.
creating sound value www.hearingcrc.org
Do age and working memory capacity affect performance on a
naturalistic test of speech perception in noise?
The same general procedure will be used to
a) If age and working memory capacity affect
performance on a naturalistic SiN test
a) If WMC is more important for performance on a
naturalistic SiN test compared to a traditional
b) If access to visual speech changes how WMC
and age effect performance on a naturalistic
1. Best, V., Keidser, G., Freeston, K., & Buchholz, J. M. (2016). A Dynamic
Speech Comprehension Test for Assessing Real-World Listening Ability.
Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 27(7), 515-526.
2. Best, V., Roverud, E., Streeter, T., Mason, C. M., Kidd, Jr. G., (2016.
August). Evaluation of a visually guided hearing aid using a dynamic
question/answer task. Poster presented at the International Hearing Aid
Research Conference, Tahoe City, California.
3. Füllgrabe, C., & Rosen, S. (2016). On the (un) importance of working
memory in speech-in-noise processing for listeners with normal hearing
thresholds. Frontiers in Psychology, 7.
4. Gordon-Salant, S., & Cole, S. S. (2016). Effects of Age and Working
Memory Capacity on Speech Recognition Performance in Noise Among
Listeners With Normal Hearing. Ear and hearing.
5. Moore, D. R., Edmondson-Jones, M., Dawes, P., Fortnum, H.,
McCormack, A., Pierzycki, R. H., & Munro, K. J. (2014). Relation between
speech-in-noise threshold, hearing loss and cognition from 40–69 years of
age. PloS one, 9(9), e107720.
Research supported by the HEARing CRC and the MARCS Institute for
Brain, Behaviour and Development.
(i.e., LSPAN score)
Age Young (18-25) Old (60+)Middle-Aged (40-55)
Low (1-4) High (5-8) High (5-8) High (5-8)Low (1-4) Low (1-4)
• Listeners are presented with a question-
answer pair; answers are correct or incorrect.
• Listeners must verbally indicate if the answer
is correct or not.
• Questions and answers are dynamically
presented at +15° and -15° azimuth (i.e., If a
question comes from +15° then the answer
comes from -15° and vice versa).
• Q and A voice gender varies across trials.
• Presented at 65dB SPL.
• Conversations from 3 male-female talker
• Both sides of each conversation (i.e., male
and female) presented simultaneously
from 6 loudspeakers located to the side
and behind the listener (C1,C2,C3; see
• Silence within conversations will be
removed to ensure consistent SNRs.
Which is bigger,
an elephant or a
I think a mouse is
the correct option.
The answer is
Category Question Correct Answer* Incorrect Answer*
Days What day comes after Monday? Tuesday Friday
Months What month comes before
Colours What colour is the sky? Blue Green
Opposites What is the opposite of up? Down Inside
Sizes Which is bigger, an elephant or
Numbers What is two plus two? Four Three
* Answers will be presented as part of a natural response (see example trial).
Useful features of this task:
• Requires speech
understanding, not verbatim
• Realistic variations in talker
voice and location
• Eyes free response format
facilitates the addition of
Traditional SiN Tests Real Life
Communication in Noise
Listen to a syllable, word,
or sentence presented in
Report verbatim what was
Often only auditory stimuli
Listen to one person or
multiple people speak in
Extract meaning from
speech and produce a
valid, verbal response
Auditory and visual stimuli
Are traditional SiN tests as cognitively
demanding as trying to understand
speech in noise in real life?
• Results will inform the development of new
assessment and remediation techniques for
clinical practice that better capture the role of
cognition in speech understanding.
• All participants complete a dynamic Question/Answer task2.
SNRs: -6, -8,
& -10 dB.