Lipreading, Processing Speed, and Working Memory in Younger and Older Adults

Feld, Julia E.; Sommers, Mitchell S.
December 2009
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Dec2009, Vol. 52 Issue 6, p1555
Academic Journal
Purpose: To examine several cognitive and perceptual abilities—including working memory (WM), information processing speed (PS), perceptual closure, and perceptual disembedding skill—as factors contributing to individual differences in lipreading performance and to examine how patterns in predictor variables change across age groups. Method: Forty-three younger adults (mean age = 20.8 years, SD = 2.4) and 38 older adults (mean age = 76.8 years, SD = 5.6) completed tasks measuring lipreading ability, verbal WM, spatial WM (SWM), PS, and perceptual abilities. Results: Younger adults demonstrated superior lipreading ability and perceptual skills compared with older adults. In addition, younger participants exhibited longer WM spans and faster PS than did the older participants. SWM and PS accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in lipreading ability in both younger and older adults, and the pattern of predictor variables remained consistent over age groups. Conclusions: These findings suggest that the large individual variability in lipreading ability can be explained, in part, by individual differences in SWM and PS. Furthermore, as both of these abilities are known to decline with age, the findings suggest that age-related impairments in either or both of these abilities may account for the poorer lipreading ability of older compared with younger adults.


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