Visual and auditory verbal memory in older adults: Comparing postlingually deaf cochlear implant users to normal-hearing controls

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Abstract

Purpose: The aim of this study was to test whether a group of older postlingually deafened cochlear implant users (OCIs) use similar verbal memory strategies to those used by older normal-hearing adults (ONHs). Verbal memory functioning was assessed in the visual and auditory modalities separately, enabling us to eliminate possible modality-based biases. Method: Participants performed two separate visual and auditory verbal memory tasks. In each task, the visually or aurally presented study words were learned by vocal production (saying aloud) or by no production (reading silently or listening), followed by a free recall test. Twenty-seven older adults (> 60 years) participated (OCI = 13, ONH = 14), all of whom demonstrated intact cognitive abilities. All OCIs showed good open-set speech perception results in quiet. Results: Both ONHs and OCIs showed production benefits (higher recall rates for vocalized than nonvocalized words) in the visual and auditory tasks. The ONHs showed similar production benefits in the visual and auditory tasks. The OCIs demonstrated a smaller production effect in the auditory task. Conclusions: These results may indicate that different modality-specific memory strategies were used by the ONHs and the OCIs. The group differences in memory performance suggest that, even when deafness occurs after the completion of language acquisition, the reduced and distorted external auditory stimulation leads to a deterioration in the phonological representation of sounds. Possibly, this deterioration leads to a less efficient auditory long-term verbal memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3865-3876
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Volume63
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2020

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