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Interactions between Memory and Hearing

​​Principal Investigator: Adam Bosen, Ph.D.

Cochlear-Implant-Lab.jpg​​Children who use cochlear implants to hear have difficulty rememb​ering sequences of things. Impaired memory is likely one reason they have trouble understanding speech. Our lab seeks to determine the different effects that poor quality auditory input has on the growth and maintenance of memory. This goal is important because it will distinguish the different effects that auditory degradation has on memory, which will help us figure out how to deal with these effects. We use a mix of behavioral tests and computational models in our studies, which allows us to use patient performance to predict long-term outcomes.

Short-Term Memory Depends on Auditory Input Quality and the Information to be Remembered

We test short-term memory in children and adults with cochlear implants. We also test listeners with normal hearing with simulated auditory impairment. Listeners hear sequences of digits, words, or non-words and repeat them back. Our results indicate that auditory impairment affects memory differently depending on what listeners have to remember. Tests that only use digits may underestimate the impact of auditory impairment on short-term memory. We will use these results to determine how auditory quality and memory work together to influence speech recognition.

Computational Models Predict How Memory Develops With Hearing Impairment

We compare our experimental results with predictions made by models of verbal short-term memory. Other models have described short-term memory in listeners with typical hearing. We extend their work to make predictions about listeners with hearing loss. We simulate development with auditory degradation, and compare our model predictions to the results obtained in listeners with cochlear implants.

Our results will characterize how auditory degradation impacts speech recognition and short-term memory in listeners with cochlear implants. In future work, we will use our findings to determine how to support language and memory development in children with cochlear implants.​