Group thinking, memory

Have you ever taken a course, or went to a lecture, where the ideas were presented so quickly or in so complex a manner that you learned next to nothing? If so, your working memory was likely overwhelmed past its total capacity.

Working memory and its limits

We all process information in three steps: 1) sensory information is received, where it is 2) either dismissed or temporarily stored in working memory, and finally, 3) either discarded or stored in long-term memory.

The issue is, there is a limit to the amount of information your working memory can hold. Picture your working memory as an empty glass: you can fill it with water, but once full, additional water just pours out the side.

That’s why, if you’re speaking to someone who’s distracted or on their smartphone, your words are just flowing out of their already occupied working memory. So you have to repeat yourself, which they’ll comprehend only when they clear their cognitive cup, dedicating the mental resources required to fully understand your speech.

Hearing loss and working memory

So what does this have to do with hearing loss? When it comes to speech comprehension, just about everything.

If you have hearing loss, particularly high-frequency hearing loss (the most common), you probably have trouble hearing the higher-pitched consonant sounds of speech. As a result, it’s easy to misunderstand what is said or to miss out on words completely.

But that’s not all. In addition to not hearing some spoken words, you’re also straining your working memory as you attempt to comprehend speech using complementary data like context and visual cues.

This continuous processing of incomplete information burdens your working memory beyond its potential. And to make things worse, as we grow older, the capacity of our working memory diminishes, exacerbating the consequences.

Working memory and hearing aids

Hearing loss taxes working memory, produces stress, and obstructs communication. But what about hearing aids? Hearing aids are supposed to enhance hearing, so in theory hearing aids should clear up working memory and improve speech comprehension, right?

That’s precisely what Jamie Desjardins, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Speech-Language Pathology Program at The University of Texas at El Paso, was about to find out.

DesJardins studied a group of individuals in their 50s and 60s with two-sided hearing loss who had never used hearing aids. They took a preliminary cognitive test that measured working memory, attention, and information processing speed, prior to ever putting on a pair of hearing aids.

After wearing hearing aids for two weeks, the group retook the test. What DesJardins found was that the group participants exhibited appreciable improvement in their cognitive ability, with greater short-term recollection and quicker processing speed. The hearing aids had expanded their working memory, decreased the quantity of information tied up in working memory, and helped them increase the speed at which they processed information.

The implications of the study are wide ranging. With improved cognitive function, hearing aid users could see enhancement in nearly every area of their lives. Better speech comprehension and memory can improve conversations, strengthen relationships, elevate learning, and augment productivity at work.

This experiment is one that you can test out for yourself. Our hearing aid trial period will enable you to run your own no-risk experiment to find out if you can accomplish similar improvements in memory and speech comprehension.

Are you up for the challenge?

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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