Thomas Lunner

Research Area Manager / Adj. Professor

> Learn more

There is growing evidence that cognitive factors interact with auditory factors to affect how effectively people use their hearing to function in everyday life, and how well hearing-impaired individuals adjust to the amplification provided by particular technologies. Understanding the role of cognition in listening has become an imperative for audiology.
Cognition and Hearing

Cognitive Hearing Science and hearing aids

Cognitive Hearing Science (or Auditory Cognitive Science) is an emerging field of interdisciplinary research concerning the interactions between hearing and cognition. The emergence of this new area of research includes technology development that offers new opportunities to utilise complex digital signal processing in order to design technologies capable of addressing challenging everyday environments.

How Eriksholm is helping

Eriksholm Research Centre is contributing by providing input on new methods for evaluating hearing-aid signal processing, together with new ways to individualise hearing-aid signal processing based on individual cognitive capacity. Some of this work is being performed in collaboration with the Linnaeus Centre HEAD at Linköping University in Sweden (see info box).

Challenges for the industry

Studies suggest that the hearing-aid industry faces several cognitive hearing science challenges: 

  1. To improve signal-processing options in order to reduce or minimise the negative long-term effects of hearing loss on long-term memory systems.
  2. To improve such options for the immediate perception and encoding into short-term memory and working memory, and to use memory paradigms for outcome evaluations.
  3. To improve subjective measurements and measurement paradigms of listening effort, such that the explicit, “here and now” processing mechanisms that surface as effortful also are the ones that are tapped into clinically.

Cognition and Hearing - EEG data

Working memory, noise and hearing aid signal processing

These studies indicate that working memory performance and speed of cognitive processing are important for speech recognition in noise, and that type of noise and hearing aid compression settings can pose different challenges, depending on the individual’s cognitive capacity.

Cognitive Spare Capacity

Systems such as working memory, long-term memory, and memory retrieval are vital for successful speech recognition. But the cognitive effort necessary to recognize speech in difficult listening conditions can draw on resources that would otherwise be available for sentence comprehension/encoding words in memory. New measures are being developed to evaluate noise reduction algorithms designed to increase cognitive spare capacity.

Listening effort and cognition

Recently there has been interest in using subjective ratings as a measure of perceived effort during speech recognition in noise. Perceived effort may be an indicator of cognitive load. Our studies show that subjective effort ratings during speech recognition in noise co-vary with signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), type of noise, and individual cognitive capacity. Such measures can be used to customise signal processing to the individual’s cognitive capacity.

Further reading

Arlinger S, Lunner T, Lyxell B, Pichora-Fuller K (2009). The emergence of Cognitive Hearing Science: Background and Basic Processes. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 50 (5), p. 371-384.

Rönnberg J, Rudner M, Foo C, Lunner T (2008). Cognition counts: A working memory system for ease of language understanding. International journal of audiology. Supplement, 47(2),  s99-s105.

Rönnberg J, Rudner M, Lunner T (2011). Cognitive hearing science: The legacy of Stuart Gatehouse. Trends in Amplification, E-pub.

Learn more

  • learnmore-poster


    Waxy business: the impact of ear cerumen on in-ear electrophysiological
    recordings, IHCON 2018
  • learnmore-poster


    Ear-EEG as novel technology for wearable brain wave monitoring

  • learnmore-poster


    Hearing Impairment and hearing aid amplification on listening effort - a systematic review