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Relationship between auditory and cognitive abilities (Davidson & Souza, 2024)

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Version 2 2024-01-12, 23:35
Version 1 2023-12-26, 18:15
posted on 2024-01-12, 23:35 authored by Alyssa Davidson, Pamela Souza

Purpose: The contributions from the central auditory and cognitive systems play a major role in communication. Understanding the relationship between auditory and cognitive abilities has implications for auditory rehabilitation for clinical patients. The purpose of this systematic review is to address the question, “In adults, what is the relationship between central auditory processing abilities and cognitive abilities?”

Method: Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines were followed to identify, screen, and determine eligibility for articles that addressed the research question of interest. Medical librarians and subject matter experts assisted in search strategy, keyword review, and structuring the systematic review process. To be included, articles needed to have an auditory measure (either behavioral or electrophysiologic), a cognitive measure that assessed individual ability, and the measures needed to be compared to one another.

Results: Following two rounds of identification and screening, 126 articles were included for full analysis. Central auditory processing (CAP) measures were grouped into categories (behavioral: speech in noise, altered speech, temporal processing, binaural processing; electrophysiologic: mismatch negativity, P50, N200, P200, and P300). The most common CAP measures were sentence recognition in speech-shaped noise and the P300. Cognitive abilities were grouped into constructs, and the most common construct was working memory. The findings were mixed, encompassing both significant and nonsignificant relationships; therefore, the results do not conclusively establish a direct link between CAP and cognitive abilities. Nonetheless, several consistent relationships emerged across different domains. Distorted or noisy speech was related to working memory or processing speed. Auditory temporal order tasks showed significant relationships with working memory, fluid intelligence, or multidomain cognitive measures. For electrophysiology, relationships were observed between some cortical evoked potentials and working memory or executive/inhibitory processes. Significant results were consistent with the hypothesis that assessments of CAP and cognitive processing would be positively correlated.

Conclusions: Results from this systematic review summarize relationships between CAP and cognitive processing, but also underscore the complexity of these constructs, the importance of study design, and the need to select an appropriate measure. The relationship between auditory and cognitive abilities is complex but can provide informative context when creating clinical management plans. This review supports a need to develop guidelines and training for audiologists who wish to consider individual central auditory and cognitive abilities in patient care.

Supplemental Material S1. “Included Articles” provides the full citation of the articles included in the review along with the analysis type, sample size, and quality ratings. “Behavioral >1” shows the citations with overall quality rating for each significant and nonsignificant behavioral auditory measure, separated by cognitive construct. Only measures that were evaluated in more than one study are included. “Electrophysiologic >1” shows the citations with overall quality rating for each significant and nonsignificant electrophysiologic auditory measure, separated by cognitive construct.

Davidson, A., & Souza, P. (2024). Relationships between auditory processing and cognitive abilities in adults: A systematic review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 67(1), 296–345.


This work was partially supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health (R01 DC012289 to P. Souza).