Differences Between Young and Older Adults in Working Memory and Performance on the Test of Basic Auditory Capabilities†

Frontiers in Psychology 12 (2022)
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Abstract

The Test of Basic Auditory Capabilities is a battery of auditory-discrimination tasks and speech-identification tasks that has been normed on several hundred young normal-hearing adults. Previous research with the TBAC suggested that cognitive function may impact the performance of older adults. Here, we examined differences in performance on several TBAC tasks between a group of 34 young adults with a mean age of 22.5 years and a group of 115 older adults with a mean age of 69.2 years recruited from the local community. Performance of the young adults was consistent with prior norms for this age group. Not surprisingly, the two groups differed significantly in hearing loss and working memory with the older adults having more hearing loss and poorer working memory than the young adults. The two age groups also differed significantly in performance on six of the nine measures extracted from the TBAC with the older adults consistently performing worse than the young adults. However, when these age-group comparisons were repeated with working memory and hearing loss as covariates, the groups differed in performance on only one of the nine auditory measures from the TBAC. For eight of the nine TBAC measures, working memory was a significant covariate and hearing loss never emerged as a significant factor. Thus, the age-group deficits observed initially on the TBAC most often appeared to be mediated by age-related differences in working memory rather than deficits in auditory processing. The results of these analyses of age-group differences were supported further by linear-regression analyses with each of the 9 TBAC scores serving as the dependent measure and age, hearing loss, and working memory as the predictors. Regression analyses were conducted for the full set of 149 adults and for just the 115 older adults. Working memory again emerged as the predominant factor impacting TBAC performance. It is concluded that working memory should be considered when comparing the performance of young and older adults on auditory tasks, including the TBAC.

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