What is it about?

Memory is often evaluated by repeating a sequence of words that you hear. Previous studies show that poorer memory occurs from degraded messages, as would occur with real cochlear-implant processing or simulations. However, this interpretation is an issue if you misheard the original message. Therefore, we measured memory of lists of numbers but also included a check of hearing the original message. We found that real cochlear-implant listeners never misheard the numbers. In contrast, people listening to cochlear-implant simulations did make mistakes, but there was no issue with their memory. Older people had a harder time with the simulations and original identification, but their memory scores were very similar to younger people.

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Why is it important?

It is important to realize that measuring some cognitive process like memory requires a sensory input, like hearing something correctly. While correct sensory perception can be guaranteed in many cases (like in young people with typical hearing), it cannot be guaranteed in people with poorer hearing (like older people and/or those with hearing loss/cochlear implants).


How much of poorer than standard cognitive processing in individuals is due to poor sensory encoding? It may be a large part, it may be a small part, but you would never know without explicitly checking. For example, we could not even replicate a decrease in memory span with age in this study, a common finding in the field.

Dr. Matthew J Goupell
University System of Maryland

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Memory Span for Spoken Digits in Adults With Cochlear Implants or Typical Hearing: Effects of Age and Identification Ability, Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, August 2018, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), DOI: 10.1044/2018_jslhr-h-17-0245.
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