The working memory framework for Ease of Language Understanding predicts that speech processing becomes more effortful, thus requiring more explicit cognitive resources, when there is mismatch between speech input and phonological representations in long-term memory. To test this prediction, we changed the compression release settings in the hearing instruments of experienced users and allowed them to train for 9 weeks with the new settings. After training, aided speech recognition in noise was tested with both the trained settings and orthogonal settings. We postulated that training would lead to acclimatization to the trained setting, which in turn would involve establishment of new phonological representations in long-term memory. Further, we postulated that after training, testing with orthogonal settings would give rise to phonological mismatch, associated with more explicit cognitive processing.Design:
Thirty-two participants (mean = 70.3 years, SD = 7.7) with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss (pure-tone average = 46.0 dB HL, SD = 6.5), bilaterally fitted for more than 1 year with digital, two-channel, nonlinear signal processing hearing instruments and chosen from the patient population at the Linköoping University Hospital were randomly assigned to 9 weeks training with new, fast (40 ms) or slow (640 ms), compression release settings in both channels. Aided speech recognition in noise performance was tested according to a design with three within-group factors: test occasion (T1, T2), test setting (fast, slow), and type of noise (unmodulated, modulated) and one between-group factor: experience setting (fast, slow) for two types of speech materials—the highly constrained Hagerman sentences and the less-predictable Hearing in Noise Test (HINT). Complex cognitive capacity was measured using the reading span and letter monitoring tests.Prediction:
We predicted that speech recognition in noise at T2 with mismatched experience and test settings would be associated with more explicit cognitive processing and thus stronger correlations with complex cognitive measures, as well as poorer performance if complex cognitive capacity was exceeded.Results:
Under mismatch conditions, stronger correlations were found between performance on speech recognition with the Hagerman sentences and reading span, along with poorer speech recognition for participants with low reading span scores. No consistent mismatch effect was found with HINT.Conclusions:
The mismatch prediction generated by the working memory framework for Ease of Language Understanding is supported for speech recognition in noise with the highly constrained Hagerman sentences but not the less-predictable HINT.