The Effect of Noise upon Auditory and Visuospatial Working Memory in School-Age Children
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Purpose: The aim of this study was to explore the effect of noise upon auditory and visuospatial working memory in school-age children. It was hypothesised that (a) children’s auditory working memory performance would be impaired in the presence of background noise, and (b) children’s visuospatial working memory performance would be unaffected by the presence of background noise. Method: Twenty-one children aged nine to ten years participated in the study. Tests of auditory working memory and visuospatial working memory were administered in both quiet and noise. The quiet condition involved no background noise. The noise condition required children to complete working memory tasks in the presence of background noise consisting of multi-talker babble at a -7 dB signal-to-noise ratio. Auditory working memory was assessed using a backward digit recall task. Visuospatial working memory was assessed using an iPad application which required children to memorise both the appearance and location of a number of on-screen items. Quantitative data in the form of scores for each memory task were then compared using a statistical analysis package, in order to explore differences in performance between the quiet and noise conditions. Results: No significant difference was found between performance in the quiet and noise conditions for either the auditory working memory task or the visuospatial working memory task. Conclusions: These findings suggest that neither auditory working memory nor visuospatial working memory are negatively affected by the presence of background noise. Results from the auditory working memory tasks were unanticipated and do not support findings from previous studies. It is therefore advised that additional research is undertaken before drawing any firm conclusions regarding the effect of noise upon children’s working memory.
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