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Better Visuospatial Working Memory in Adults Who Report Profound Deafness Compared to Those With Normal or Poor Hearing

Data From the UK Biobank Resource

Rudner, Mary; Keidser, Gitte; Hygge, Staffan; Rönnberg, Jerker

doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000314
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Experimental work has shown better visuospatial working memory (VSWM) in profoundly deaf individuals compared to those with normal hearing. Other data, including the UK Biobank resource shows poorer VSWM in individuals with poorer hearing. Using the same database, the authors investigated VSWM in individuals who reported profound deafness. Included in this study were 112 participants who were profoundly deaf, 1310 with poor hearing and 74,635 with normal hearing. All participants performed a card-pair matching task as a test of VSWM. Although variance in VSWM performance was large among profoundly deaf participants, at group level it was superior to that of participants with both normal and poor hearing. VSWM in adults is related to hearing status but the association is not linear. Future study should investigate the mechanism behind enhanced VSWM in profoundly deaf adults.

Visuospatial working memory (VSWM) has been shown to be poorer in individuals with poorer hearing but better in profoundly deaf individuals compared to those with normal hearing. Using data from the UK Biobank resource, a large observational study, we showed that although variance in card-pair matching (VSWM) performance was large among profoundly deaf participants, at group level it was superior to that of participants with both normal and poor hearing. Future work should investigate the mechanism behind enhanced VSWM in profoundly deaf adults.

1Linnaeus Centre HEAD, Swedish Institute for Disability Research, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden; 2National Acoustic Laboratories, Sydney, Australia; and 3Environmental Psychology, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, University of Gävle, Gävle, Sweden.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Received December 16, 2015; accepted February 29, 2016.

Address for correspondence: Mary Rudner, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linkoping University, SE-581 83 Linkoping, Sweden. E-mail: mary.rudner@liu.se

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