Judges’ Queries and Presenter’s Replies

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Presentation Discussion

  • Icon for: Katherine Hoffman

    Katherine Hoffman

    Coordinator
    May 22, 2012 | 02:34 p.m.

    Nice job and interesting research. Does “cognition” mean “comprehension”? How are they different? Perhaps you should consider defining “cognition”, “comprehension”, and “working memory” at the beginning of your poster and/or define which terms you are using interchangeably? Also, I am a bit unclear as to what “super olds” is referring to. Perhaps you should consider ’super seniors".

  • Icon for: Melanie Bauer

    Melanie Bauer

    Presenter
    May 22, 2012 | 04:56 p.m.

    Does “cognition” mean “comprehension”? How are they different?
    I see that my general use of the terms “cognition” and “hearing” can get a little confusing at the beginning, especially as I go on to only investigate one basic cognitive ability, that of working memory. Further, listening/speech comprehension is a more complex ability, drawing on an array of both cognitive and hearing abilities, so I try to set it apart as a task that is less purely cognitive or hearing-related. Surely, tasks are never process pure, but on the continuum of tasks that measure more or less one ability, the working memory and hearing tasks I included (and refer to as “basic abilities” in my video) are more process pure, whereas the listening/speech comprehension task (that I refer to as a “complex ability” in my video) is less process pure. I hope that clears things up a bit.

    Also, I am a bit unclear as to what “super olds” is referring to. Perhaps you should consider ’super seniors".
    Good point. My use of “super olds” is ambiguous. In this context I mean that they are an exceptional group of older adults who did NOT show declines on the listening/speech comprehension task. Therefore, they are “super” in some way (indicated by the Superman).

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    Candace Dunlap

    Guest
    May 22, 2012 | 03:10 p.m.

    Hi Melanie,

    I am very interested in your poster because I am 61 years old, with beginning hearing problems. I would like a clarification on the first sentience in paragraph number three. Are you saying that a person with poor memory “might have” reduced capacity to understand the importance of hearing aids and/or the ability to use them correctly? Is that what you mean by “dissatisfaction”?

    Keep up the good work!

  • Icon for: Melanie Bauer

    Melanie Bauer

    Presenter
    May 22, 2012 | 05:10 p.m.

    Are you referring to my statement: “Older adults’ dissatisfaction with hearing aids, which only improve hearing, is potentially due to their poorer memories”? If so, I see how my wording is unclear. What I’m saying is that research shows older adults are very dissatisfied with their hearing aids. Less than half of older adults that use hearing aids are satisfied with them according to a 2006 survey. They complain that they do not significantly improve their ability to understand what other people are saying to them. I propose that perhaps this is not because the hearing aids are poor devices (though they definitely can be improved), but rather that older adults are also suffering from poorer memories (specifically, poorer working memory in the study I conducted). We don’t only use our ears to understand speech, but we also use our memories. My video helps to explain this a bit, but basically I suggest that in order to be engaged in a spoken conversation with a friend you need to not only understand what they’re currently saying, but also remember back to what they said previously. You have to use your memory to recall what they said earlier, so you can relate that information to what they’re saying now, and that helps you understand the conversation as a whole and keep you engaged in the conversation. On a smaller scale, remembering the words at the beginning of a sentence until you’ve heard the entire sentence is important to understanding its overall meaning. Therefore, while older adults attribute their inability to understand what others are saying only to their poorer hearing ability (and failing hearing aids), I suggest (and find supportive evidence for) that this inability to understand others is partially attributed to older adults’ poorer cognitive/memory abilities.

    Did I explain that well? If not, please ask more questions and I will try to clarify.

  • Icon for: Annie Aigster

    Annie Aigster

    Coordinator
    May 22, 2012 | 04:57 p.m.

    Great presentation!

  • Icon for: Melanie Bauer

    Melanie Bauer

    Presenter
    May 22, 2012 | 05:41 p.m.

    I thank you very much! :)

  • Icon for: Marina Cords

    Marina Cords

    Faculty
    May 23, 2012 | 10:08 a.m.

    Interesting hypothesis and work. I wondered how you defined outliers, in your analysis with an N of 12… I’m sure it is difficult to find participants for a study like this, and am sympathetic to small sample sizes, but 2 out of 14 as outliers seems like rather a lot.

  • Icon for: Claudia Farber

    Claudia Farber

    Coordinator
    May 23, 2012 | 12:05 p.m.

    Fascinating work.

  • Icon for: Lee McDavid

    Lee McDavid

    Coordinator
    May 23, 2012 | 04:55 p.m.

    This makes me understand what might be happening with older family members much better. Maybe it will make me more patient!

  • Icon for: Pamela Allen

    Pamela Allen

    Associate
    May 24, 2012 | 01:57 p.m.

    Nice presentation! Can you say a bit more about the potential results of anxiety resulting from poor comprehension? It seems possible that heightened anxiety can feed back into and temporarily cause poor working memory as well?

  • Further posting is closed as the competition has ended.

Icon for: Melanie Bauer

MELANIE BAUER

Washington University in St. Louis
Years in Grad School: 2

The Double Whammy: Hearing and Memory Declines Lead to Speech Comprehension Difficulties in Older Adults

Three old guys are out walking. First one says, “It’s windy today!” Second one says, “No, it’s Thursday!” Third one says, “So am I! Let’s have a beer!”

Understanding speech, though seemingly automatic to the listener, is a complex ability supported by both auditory and cognitive abilities. As these latter abilities decline with age, speech comprehension also suffers. In the present study, we investigated the relative contributions of hearing loss and memory decline to speech comprehension difficulties in older adults.

This study is a longitudinal follow-up of a study conducted approximately four years ago in our lab in which a subsample of older adults (over 65 years) was retested on speech comprehension, hearing, and working memory (a type of short-term memory). We found that participants on average experienced moderate hearing loss and declined significantly on most working memory tasks.

How did these declines affect speech comprehension? The oldest participants (over 80 years) declined the most on speech comprehension, except for a group of exceptional older adults. When we examined what contributed, we found that hearing loss contributed to 34% of these speech comprehension declines, while working memory contributed an additional 66%.

Therefore, older adults’ dissatisfaction with hearing aids, which only improve hearing, is potentially due to their poorer memories. Clinicians can use these results to prepare older adults with more appropriate expectations for their hearing aids. Researchers in the emerging field of cognitive training can use these results to determine targets for training to improve speech comprehension.