Chronic tinnitus and its impact on demanding cognitive tasks

March 10, 2006

Individuals with chronic, moderate tinnitus do more poorly on demanding working memory and attention tests than those without tinnitus, according to research conducted at the University of Western Sydney.

However, on less complex tasks, no significant differences were found, suggesting that tinnitus has no effect on tasks that involve more involuntary, automatic responses.

The study, Tinnitus and Its Effect on Working Memory and Attention, which appeared in the February issue of the 'Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research', adds to the growing body of research on the relationship between tinnitus and cognition, demonstrating an association between tinnitus and reduced cognitive function.

The research has important implications for helping people with tinnitus approach new or difficult tasks that require strategic and conscious control.

"We wanted to learn more about the ways in which chronic tinnitus disrupts cognitive performance," says Susan Rossiter, a former research Masters student at the MARCS Auditory Laboratories at the University's Bankstown Campus.

"Our goal is to use this knowledge to develop management strategies that will help minimize this disruption."

"Ms Rossiter's research project was our first foray into tinnitus," says fellow researcher, Associate Professor Catherine Stevens of the MARCS Auditory Laboratories. She adds, "Our most recent research has also investigated other important variables such as depression and hearing loss."

Dr Gary Walker, Honorary Adjunct Fellow at the MARCS Auditory labs adds, "Our ultimate goal is to use this knowledge to develop management strategies that will help minimize disruption."

Thirty-eight people participated as subjects. Nineteen, who were ages 34-63 years, came from English-speaking backgrounds, and had constant, moderate to severe tinnitus made up the experimental group. The control group also had 19 participants. They matched individuals in the experimental group by age, educational level, occupation, and verbal IQ.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the absence of auditory stimulation. Described as a "ringing in the ears" or "buzzing" or "whooshing" sound, it can be temporary, intermittent, or permanent.

Although its exact cause is often unknown, tinnitus can be a symptom of hearing loss, allergies, or exposure to loud noise or ototoxic medicines.

Past research has shown that it can be accompanied by anxiety, insomnia, problems with auditory perception, and poor general and mental health.
-end-
The 'Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research' is published by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The ASHA is the US professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 120,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists.

A copy of the research paper is available.

Research Australia

Related Working Memory Articles from Brightsurf:

Musical training can improve attention and working memory in children - study
Musically trained children perform better at attention and memory recall and have greater activation in brain regions related to attention control and auditory encoding.

A revised map of where working memory resides in the brain
Findings from genetically diverse mice challenge long-held assumptions about how the brain is able to briefly hold onto important information.

Playing video games as a child can improve working memory years later
UOC research reveals cognitive changes can be found even years after people stop playing

Visual working memory is hierarchically structured
Researchers from HSE University and the University of California San Diego, Igor Utochkin and Timothy Brady, have found new evidence of hierarchical encoding of images in visual working memory.

Couldn't socially distance? Blame your working memory
Whether you decided to engage in social distancing in the early stages of COVID-19 depended on how much information your working memory could hold.

Previously claimed memory boosting font 'Sans Forgetica' does not actually boost memory
It was previously claimed that the font Sans Forgetica could enhance people's memory for information, however researchers from the University of Warwick and the University of Waikato, New Zealand, have found after carrying out numerous experiments that the font does not enhance memory.

They remember: Communities of microbes found to have working memory
Biologists studying communities of bacteria have discovered that these so-called simple organisms feature a robust capacity for memory.

Researchers find key to keep working memory working
Working memory, the ability to hold a thought in mind even through distraction, is the foundation of abstract reasoning and a defining characteristic of the human brain.

Slower growth in working memory linked to teen driving crashes
Research into why adolescent drivers are involved in motor vehicle crashes, the leading cause of injury and death among 16- to 19-year-olds in the United States, has often focused on driving experience and skills.

Are differences in working memory development associated with crashes involving young drivers?
This study of 84 young drivers looked at the association between motor vehicle crashes and differences in the development of working memory, which is critical to awareness of hazards while driving.

Read More: Working Memory News and Working Memory Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.