Auditory verbal working memory as a predictor of speech perception in modulated maskers in normal-hearing listeners

Rebecca E. Millman, Sven Mattys

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Purpose: Background noise can interfere with our ability to understand speech. Working memory capacity (WMC) has been shown to contribute to the perception of speech in modulated noise maskers. WMC has been assessed with a variety of auditory and visual tests, often pertaining to different components of working memory. This study assessed the relationship between speech perception in modulated maskers and components of auditory verbal working memory (AVWM) over a range of signal-to-noise ratios.
Method: Speech perception in noise and AVWM were measured in 30 listeners (age range 31-67 years) with normal hearing. AVWM was estimated using forward digit recall, backward digit recall, and non-word repetition.
Results: After controlling for the effects of age and average pure-tone hearing threshold, speech perception in modulated maskers was related to individual differences in the phonological component of working memory (as assessed by non-word repetition) but only in the least favorable SNR. The executive component of working memory (as assessed by backward digit) was not predictive of speech perception in any conditions.
Conclusions: AVWM is predictive of the ability to benefit from temporal dips in modulated maskers: Listeners with greater phonological WMC are better able to correctly identify sentences in modulated noise backgrounds.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of speech, language, and hearing research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 28 Oct 2016

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