The Effects of Working Memory Training on Speech Perception in Multi-Talker Environments

Ashley Jondle


Older adults often experience difficulty distinguishing speech sounds with the presence of background noise. Some of the decreases in performance when listening to speech in noise have been attributed to deteriorations in executive functions with progressing age. Studies revealed that efforts to improve executive functions correlated with improved speech perception in noise; however, these studies implemented training paradigms created specifically for the laboratory setting and were altogether unavailable to the public. Therefore, the current study evaluated whether playing free internet based brain games for twenty minutes over a two week period improved working memory and garnered cross-modal improvements in speech perception in noise. Participants included adults over the age of 65 years who earned a passing score on the mini-mental status exam and passed a pure tone hearing screen in at least one ear.  Older adult participants completed a baseline assessment consisting of a standardized measure of mood, two speech perception in noise tasks, as well as a standard neuropsychology measure of working memory. Participants were randomly selected into a visual working memory training group or an auditory working memory training group. The study consisted of eight twenty minute training sessions spread across two weeks with a mid-study re-assessment of the baseline measures on the fourth training day.  Upon completion of the training regimen, the baseline measures were repeated for a third time. Descriptive statistics suggested that both training modalities resulted in minor improvements in working memory capacity averages. Generally, the auditory working memory group demonstrated larger improvements in one of the speech perception in noise measure compared to the visual working memory group. In both training groups, there was a large degree of individual variability.

Full Text:



Meredyth Daneman, Kathleen M. Pichora-Fuller, and Bruce A. Schneider, “How Young and Old Adults Listen to and Remember Speech in Noise,” Journal of Acoustic Society America 97, no. 1 (1995): 593.

Rag Stewart, and Arthur Wingfield, “Hearing Loss and Cognitive Effort in Older Adults’ Report Accuracy for Verbal Materials,” Journal American Academic Audiology 20, no. 2 (February 2009): 147.

P. A. Tun, and Arthur Wingfield, “One Voice Too Many: Adult Age Differences in Language Processing with Different Types of Distracting Sounds. Journals of Gerontology Series B,” Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 54, no. 5 (September 1999):317.

Mitchell S. Sommers, “Speech Perception in Older Adults: The Importance of Speech-Specific Cognitive Abilities,” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 45, no. 5 (May 1997): 633.

JC Van Rooji, and Reinier Plomp, “Auditive and Cognitive Factors in Speech Perception by Elderly Listeners. II: Multivariate Analyses,” Journal of Acoustical Society of America 88, no. 6 (1990):2611

Larry E. Humes, Betty U. Watson, Laurel A. Christensen, Carol G. Cokely, Dan C. Halling, and Lidia Lee, “Factors Associated with Individual Differences in Clinical Measures of Speech Recognition Among the Elderly,” Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 37, (April 1994):465.

Maria J. S. Guerreiro, Dana R. Murphy, and Pascal W. M. Van Gerven, “Role of Sensory Modality in Age-Related Distraction: A Critical Review and a Renewed View,” Psychological Bulletin 136, no. 6 (2010):975.

James Inglis, and W. K. Caird, “Age Differences in Successive Responses to Simultaneous Stimulation,” Canadian Journal of Psychology 17, no. 1 (1963): 98.

Fergus I. M. Craik,“The Nature of Age Decrement in Performance on Dichotic Listening Tasks,” Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 17, (September 1965): 227.

Lynn Gilbertson, and Robert A. Lutfi,“Correlations of Decision Weights and Cognitive Functions for the Masked Discrimination of Vowels by Young and Old Adults” Hearing Research 317, no. 1 (November 2014): 9.

Bruce A.Schneider, Meredyth Daneman, Kathleen M. Pichora-Fuller, and P. J. Bennett, “Listening in Aging Adults: From Discourse Comprehension to Psychoacoustics,” Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology 56, no. 3 (September 2002): 139.

Kathleen M. Pichora-Fuller,“Cognitive Aging and Auditory Information Processing,” International Journal of Audiology 2, no. 2 (July 2003): 26.

George A. Miller, “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information,” The Psychological Review 63, no. 2 (March 1956): 81.

John Sweller,“Cognitive Load During Problem Solving: Effects on Learning,” Cognitive Science 12, no. 2 (April 1988): 257.

Samira Anderson, Bharath Chandrasekaran, Nina Kraus, and Erika Skoe,“Neural Timing is Linked to Speech Perception in Noise” The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 30, no. 14 (April 2010): 4922.

Marshal F. Folstein, Susan E. Folstein, and Paul R. McHugh, "Mini-Mental State: a Practical Method for Grading the Cognitive State of Patients for the Clinician," Journal of psychiatric research 12, no. 3 (November 1975): 189.

American National Standards Institute, "American National Standard Criteria for Maximum Permissible Ambient Noise Levels for Audiometric Test Rooms" ANSI S3.1, 1999.

David Watson, Lee Anna Clark, and Auke Tellegen. "Development and Validation of Brief Measures of Positive and Negative Affect: the PANAS scales," Journal of Personality and Social psychology 54, no. 6 (1988): 1063.

Gordon H. Bower, Kenneth P. Monteiro, and Stephen G. Gilligan, "Emotional Mood as a Context for Learning and Recall," Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 17, no. 5 (1978): 573.

Wechsler, Manual for the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised. Psychological Corporation. San Antonio, TX: (1981).

Harvey Fletcher, “Auditory Patterns,” Review of Modern Physics 12, (January 1940):47.

Nathaniel I. Durlach,“Auditory Masking: Need for an Improved Conceptual Structure,” Journal of Acoustical Society of America 120, (October 2006):1787.

23.Irwin Pollack, “Auditory Informational Masking,” Journal of Acoustical Society of America 57, no. 5 (1975).

Gerald Kidd, Christine R. Mason, Virginia M. Richards, Frederick J. Gallun, and Nathaniel I. Durlach, “Informational Masking,” In Springer Handbook of Auditory Research: Auditory Perception of Sound Sources Edited by W.A. Yost. And A.N Popper (New York: Springer-Verlag, 2008)143.

Etymotic Research, “Quick Speech-in-Noise Test” [Audio CD], (Elk Grove Village, IL, 2001).

Gerald Jr Kidd, Virginia Best, and Christine R. Mason, “Listening to Every Other Word: Examining the Strength of Linkage Variables in Forming Streams of Speech,” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 44, (2008).

Boatload Puzzles “Free Online Crossword Puzzles”

Web Sudoku “Web Sudoku Easy”

Sheppard Software “Music Memory”

Cognitive Fun “Cognitive Tests: Comparison Test for Dual n-back: Auditory Only”


  • There are currently no refbacks.