Published January 12, 2024 | Version v1
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Interplay between working memory and speech recognition declines over time

  • 1. ROR icon Linköping University


Background: Age-related changes in auditory and cognitive functions are well-documented, with increased hearing thresholds (e.g., Wiley et al., 2008) and reduced working memory capacity (WMC; e.g., Wingfield et al., 1988) among older adults. Moreover, aging has been linked to poorer speech recognition in noise (e.g., Marsja et al., 2022), highlighting the multifaceted impact of age on auditory and cognitive domains. Our study examined the dynamic relationship between auditory and cognitive changes over time to shed light on the direction of influence between the two. To this aim, we employed change score modeling.

Methods: We analyzed data from 111 normally hearing individuals from the n200 study ( At Time 1 (T1), their mean age was 61.2 years (SD = 8.00), and at Time 2 (T2), their mean age was 67.0 years (SD = 8.06). We used Latent Change Score modeling to explore the changes in WMC and speech recognition in noise. To measure speech recognition in noise, we used signal-to-noise ratios from the Hearing in Noise Test during speech-shaped noise. The reading span test was used as a measure for WMC.

Results and Conclusion: Preliminary results showed a decline in WMC, signified by the negative relationship between Reading Span at T1 and changes in Reading Span at T2. This negative relationship indicates that individuals with higher initial WMC experienced subsequent declines in their cognitive abilities. Furthermore, our analysis revealed a negative relationship between changes in speech recognition in noise at T2 and Reading Span at T1. This relationship suggests that individuals with higher initial WMC experienced less decline in their speech recognition in noise over time. Further research with additional time points may be needed to fully elucidate the complex relationship between cognitive and auditory changes over time.


  • Marsja, E., Stenbäck, V., Moradi, S., Danielsson, H., & Rönnberg, J. (2022). Is Having Hearing Loss Fundamentally Different? Multigroup Structural Equation Modeling of the Effect of Cognitive Functioning on Speech Identification. Ear. Hear., 43(5), 1437–1446.
  • Wiley, T. L., Chappell, R., Carmichael, L., Nondahl, D. M., & Cruickshanks, K. J. (2008). Changes in hearing thresholds over 10 years in older adults. J. Am. Acad. Audiol., 19(4), 281–292.
  • Wingfield, A., Stine, E. A. L., Lahar, C. J., & Aberdeen, J. S. (1988). Does the capacity of working memory change with age? Exp. Aging Res., 14(2), 103–107.



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