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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Meher Lad,
Professor Tim Griffiths
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).
© 2020, The Author(s). Speech-in-noise (SiN) perception is a critical aspect of natural listening, deficits in which are a major contributor to the hearing handicap in cochlear hearing loss. Studies suggest that SiN perception correlates with cognitive skills, particularly phonological working memory: the ability to hold and manipulate phonemes or words in mind. We consider here the idea that SiN perception is linked to a more general ability to hold sound objects in mind, auditory working memory, irrespective of whether the objects are speech sounds. This process might help combine foreground elements, like speech, over seconds to aid their separation from the background of an auditory scene. We investigated the relationship between auditory working memory precision and SiN thresholds in listeners with normal hearing. We used a novel paradigm that tests auditory working memory for non-speech sounds that vary in frequency and amplitude modulation (AM) rate. The paradigm yields measures of precision in frequency and AM domains, based on the distribution of participants’ estimates of the target. Across participants, frequency precision correlated significantly with SiN thresholds. Frequency precision also correlated with the number of years of musical training. Measures of phonological working memory did not correlate with SiN detection ability. Our results demonstrate a specific relationship between working memory for frequency and SiN. We suggest that working memory for frequency facilitates the identification and tracking of foreground objects like speech during natural listening. Working memory performance for frequency also correlated with years of musical instrument experience suggesting that the former is potentially modifiable.
Author(s): Lad M, Holmes E, Chu A, Griffiths TD
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Scientific Reports
Online publication date: 19/08/2020
Acceptance date: 30/07/2020
Date deposited: 16/10/2020
ISSN (electronic): 2045-2322
Publisher: Nature Research
PubMed id: 32814792
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