Working memory, short-term memory and reading proficiency in school-age children with cochlear implants
Bharadwaj, Sneha V.
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Objective The objective of the study was to examine short-term memory and working memory through both visual and auditory tasks in school-age children with cochlear implants. The relationship between the performance on these cognitive skills and reading as well as language outcomes were examined in these children. Methods Ten children between the ages of 7 and 11 years with early-onset bilateral severe-profound hearing loss participated in the study. Auditory and visual short-term memory, auditory and visual working memory subtests and verbal knowledge measures were assessed using the Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-IV Integrated and the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children II. Reading outcomes were assessed using the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test III. Results Performance on visual short-term memory and visual working memory measures in children with cochlear implants was within the average range when compared to the normative mean. However, auditory short-term memory and auditory working memory measures were below average when compared to the normative mean. Performance was also below average on all verbal knowledge measures. Regarding reading outcomes, children with cochlear implants scored below average for listening and passage comprehension tasks and these measures were positively correlated to visual short-term memory, visual working memory and auditory short-term memory. Performance on auditory working memory subtests was not related to reading or language outcomes. Conclusions The children with cochlear implants in this study demonstrated better performance in visual (spatial) working memory and short-term memory skills than in auditory working memory and auditory short-term memory skills. Significant positive relationships were found between visual working memory and reading outcomes. The results of the study provide support for the idea that WM capacity is modality specific in children with hearing loss. Based on these findings, reading instruction that capitalizes on the strengths in visual short-term memory and working memory is suggested for young children with early-onset hearing loss.