Title: 'Effects of Noise on Auditory Cognitive Skills in Normal Hearing Children: Implications for Children with Hearing Loss'
Track: 2 - Audiological Services
Keyword(s): children, working memory, cognitive factors, speech perception in noise
Learning Objectives:
  1. Learners will be able to discuss the interaction between audition and cognition and how this may apply to (re)habilitation of children with hearing loss.
  2. Learners will be able to identify the effects of noise on auditory working memory


Working memory (WM) plays a critical role in the development of speech and language. Recent adult literature indicates that noise can negatively impact an individual’s working memory. In addition, research has demonstrated that children need a higher signal to noise ratio (SNR) compared to adults to achieve similar abilities to understand speech. Therefore, it is important to determine if noise has a negative impact on WM in children as they are often in adverse listening situations (e.g., classroom). The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of noise on WM of children with normal hearing. The study addressed two primary questions: (1) whether children demonstrate poorer auditory WM performance in degraded SNRs than in quiet, and (2) whether the amount of cognitive demand of the task contribute to differences in performance in noise. Twenty children with normal hearing, ages 8 to 10, with no known neurological disorders participated in our study. WM was assessed using subtests from the Working Memory Test Battery for Children: Forward Digital Recall (FW), Backward Digital Recall (BW), and Listening Span Task (LT). Each sub-test was administered using a span procedure at 65 dB SPL in quiet and four-talker babble at 0 dB and -5 dB SNR. A two-factor ANOVA demonstrated statistically significant main effects for listening conditions (F (2,60) = 2; p<0.0001) and task (F(2,45) = 3; p<0.0001). Post-hoc analyses using a Tukey-Kramer Multiple Comparison Test revealed significant differences among listening conditions. Significant differences were also found between tasks, except between FW and LT. These results imply that noise negatively influences auditory working memory processes and may impact speech understanding in noise. Further research is needed to determine the effects of noise on WM in children with hearing loss and apply what we learn to develop effective (re)habilitation, early intervention, and auditory training programs.
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Jessica Sullivan - Author
      Dr. Jessica Sullivan is an Assistant Professor in the department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington. Her areas of interest include aural (re)habilitation and speech perception in noise. Currently, she is interestted in the relationship between working memory and speech perception. She received her B.A in 1996 from Louisiana State University and Masters in Deaf Education from Lamar University in 2000. She received her PhD in Communication Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas in 2010. Dr. Sullivan has received numerous awards, honors, and grants including a F31 from the NIH /NIDCD.

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Homira Osman - Primary Presenter,Author
      Homira Osman is a third year Clinical Doctorate of Audiology (AuD) student and first year Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) student at the University of Washington. She received her Honors B.Sc. in Neuroscience and Health Studies from the University of Toronto in 2010. Her research interests include habilitation for infants and children with hearing loss, auditory neuropathy, and speech perception in noise. Homira has served on university and national committees and has received awards and traineeships. She is currently a Leadership in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) fellow in Pediatric Audiology.

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