PROJECT 7: INTERACTIONS BETWEEN LANGUAGE EXPERIENCE AND SHORT-TERM MEMORY IN LISTENERS WHO RECEIVED COCHLEAR IMPLANTS EARLY IN LIFE Individuals who receive cochlear implants early in life often have associated impairments in speech recognition and short-term memory. The goal of this project is to determine whether these impairments can be attributed solely to poor quality auditory input at the time of testing, or if these individuals are also subject to limitations due to the chronic nature of their auditory impairment. This goal is important because it will distinguish the respective effects of acute vs chronic auditory degradation on memory for words, which will provide guidance for development of interventions to address each of these effects. We will achieve this goal by testing the ability of listeners with normal hearing and listeners with cochlear implants to remember sequences of words. Word sequences will include spoken digits, monosyllabic words, or monosyllabic nonsense words, to determine how memory changes across word sets. Listeners with normal hearing will be tested with unprocessed speech and with vocoder-degraded speech, to test the impact of acute auditory degradation on their ability to recall word sequences. Memory for degraded speech will be compared to listeners with cochlear implants, to determine the extent to which acute degradation of auditory input explains the pattern of results observed in listeners with cochlear implants. Results of this experiment will be compared to predictions made by a connectionist model of verbal short-term memory. This model has previously been used to describe short-term memory in listeners with typical hearing, but has not been used to make predictions about listeners with hearing loss. We will simulate acute and chronic auditory degradation in this model, and determine the extent to which it can explain the results obtained in listeners with cochlear implants. Together, the proposed experiment and modeling will demonstrate the respective effects of acute and chronic auditory degradation on speech recognition and short-term memory in listeners with cochlear implants and thereby determine the importance of addressing each form of degradation in these listeners.

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