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Trends Amplif. 2013 Jun;17(2):75-93. doi: 10.1177/1084713813495459. Epub 2013 Aug 13.

How linguistic closure and verbal working memory relate to speech recognition in noise--a review.

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  • 11VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands.


The ability to recognize masked speech, commonly measured with a speech reception threshold (SRT) test, is associated with cognitive processing abilities. Two cognitive factors frequently assessed in speech recognition research are the capacity of working memory (WM), measured by means of a reading span (Rspan) or listening span (Lspan) test, and the ability to read masked text (linguistic closure), measured by the text reception threshold (TRT). The current article provides a review of recent hearing research that examined the relationship of TRT and WM span to SRTs in various maskers. Furthermore, modality differences in WM capacity assessed with the Rspan compared to the Lspan test were examined and related to speech recognition abilities in an experimental study with young adults with normal hearing (NH). Span scores were strongly associated with each other, but were higher in the auditory modality. The results of the reviewed studies suggest that TRT and WM span are related to each other, but differ in their relationships with SRT performance. In NH adults of middle age or older, both TRT and Rspan were associated with SRTs in speech maskers, whereas TRT better predicted speech recognition in fluctuating nonspeech maskers. The associations with SRTs in steady-state noise were inconclusive for both measures. WM span was positively related to benefit from contextual information in speech recognition, but better TRTs related to less interference from unrelated cues. Data for individuals with impaired hearing are limited, but larger WM span seems to give a general advantage in various listening situations.


linguistic closure; speech recognition; text reception threshold; working memory span

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