Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Speech-in-noise detection is related to auditory working memory precision for frequency

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Meher LadORCiD, Professor Tim GriffithsORCiD



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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lad M, Holmes E, Chu A, Griffiths TD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Scientific Reports

Year: 2020

Volume: 10

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 19/08/2020

Acceptance date: 30/07/2020

Date deposited: 16/10/2020

ISSN (electronic): 2045-2322

Publisher: Nature Research


DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-70952-9

PubMed id: 32814792


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name
Wellcome Trust