Effortful and effortless listening: how age-related hearing loss and cognitive abilities interact and influence memory performance in older adults

DiDonato, Roberta (2014) Effortful and effortless listening: how age-related hearing loss and cognitive abilities interact and influence memory performance in older adults. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This study investigated how age-related-hearing loss (ARHL) might contribute to memory deficits and whether an enhanced auditory message can facilitate memory. According to the effortful listening hypothesis, effortful listening requires cognitivelinguistic and attentional resources for deciphering the message, resulting in fewer resources available for encoding into memory. Auditory perceptual and processing enhancements should reduce the listening effort and free up those resources resulting in better memory performance. Three experiments were conducted to investigate whether decreasing listening effort facilitates memory performance. In Experiment 1 recall of complex prescription instructions presented in conversational speech and clear speech was tested to see if the enhanced listening (clear) resulted in better memory performance than the non-enhanced listening (conversational) for the two groups of older adults matched for age and hearing loss (Quiet and Noise). In Experiment 2, recall of complex prescription instructions presented in degraded (65% time-compressed speech in babble) and enhanced (120% expanded speech) listening was compared for older adults with particular configurations of hearing loss to younger adults without hearing loss. Experiment 3 was a replication of Experiment 2 comparing a group of 21 older musicians (‘expert listeners’) to non-‘expert listeners’ (two non-musician groups: 20 younger and 20 older adults). Enhancements of the auditory message during encoding facilitated memory at the time of retrieval for all groups, more so for the hearing-impaired older adults. The older adult musicians demonstrated additional enhancement in listening such that their memory performance was more similar to the younger non-musicians than to a group of older adults matched for age and hearing ability. The findings from this study support the effortful listening hypothesis. According to this view, ARHL increases the effort in listening by degrading the message, increasing the distractor effect, and decreasing perceptual learning. These ARHL effects increase the processing load necessary to discern the message for communication at the perceptual, lexical and cognitive levels. These processing loads result in fewer attentional and cognitive-linguistic resources available for elaborate encoding for later recall. Enhancements to the auditory-verbal message in an ecologically valid task demonstrated that memory performance can be improved in older adults with hearing loss. These findings lend support to ARHL as a potential underlying causal mechanism contributing to declining memory performance in the aging adult population.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/8234
Item ID: 8234
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 255-279).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Psychology
Science, Faculty of > Psychology
Date: July 2014
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Presbycusis; Cognitive Abilities Test; Older people with disabilities--Psychological testing; Memory in old age; Auditory perception--Testing

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