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  Optimising the measurement of working memory for assessment of speech-in-noise perception

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

  , ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The ability to hear and understand speech in a noisy background is vitally important to good communication, and ultimately a good quality of life. Successful listening in noisy environments requires not only good hearing but also good working memory. The Reading Span Test (RST) is a tool that assesses working memory capacity. The RST is commonly used in the context of speech-in-noise research but many different versions of the RST exist. . This project aims to understand (1) how comparable different versions of the RST are, (2) to what extent the different versions of RST assess different cognitive skills, (3) and how the different profiles of RST relate to different speech-in-noise tasks. The results of this project will improve our understanding of (1) how test composition and administration changes the cognitive requirements of the test and (2) which test version is the most appropriate to use in the context of speech-in-noise perception.

Our group, the Manchester Centre for Audiology and Deafness (ManCAD), is the premier UK centre for hearing loss research, education and service provision. We have a well-established track-record of improving the lives of individuals with hearing loss, and have over recent years published a number of research studies on the role of cognition in speech perception in internationally leading journals. Ultimately we want to help audiologists to understand which RST is most appropriate to use in the context of their clinical work. This PhD project will be conducted in three phases: (1) a review of the literature, (2) the creation and implementation of a number of behavioural experiments that quantify the contribution of various cognitive skills to the performance of a particular RST, and (3) relating performance on various RSTs to speech-in-noise perception.

Entry Requirements

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area/subject. This PhD will suit you if you have a background in audiology, hearing science, psychology, neuroscience, medical/clinical science or related discipline. Ideally, you with have a first class undergraduate degree and a postgraduate qualification that included a research project e.g., MSc or MRes. Evidence of research output (e.g., peer-reviewed publication, newsletter article, conference presentation) would be advantageous.

The project is suitable if you require excellent research training, in a stimulating and active environment, in order to become an independent, international researcher. It will also be suitable to you if you are a health professional whose career aspirations involve a combination of research with clinical activities.

Good writing skills will be essential.

Applicants interested in this project should make direct contact with the Primary Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible.

How To Apply

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select the appropriate subject title.

For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website”

Nursing & Health (27)

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website View Website


Heinrich, A. (2020). The role of cognition for speech-in-noise perception: considering individual listening strategies related to aging and hearing loss. International Journal of Behavioral Development.
Dryden, A., Allen, H., Henshaw, H., & Heinrich, A. (2018): The role of cognition for speech-in-noise perception across different listening conditions in normal-hearing adult listeners – a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Trends in Hearing, 21:1-21
Heinrich, A., & Knight, S.L. (2016). The contribution of auditory and cognitive factors to intelligibility of words and sentences in noise. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 894, 37-45
Millman, R.E., & Mattys, S.L. (2017). Auditory verbal working memory as a predictor of speech perception in modulated maskers in normal-hearing listeners. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research 60: 1236-1245.
Couth, S., Prendergast, G., Guest, H., Munro, K.J., Moore, D.R., Plack, C.J., Ginsborg, J, Dawes, P. (2020). Investigating the effects of noise exposure on self-report, behavioral and electrophysiological indices of hearing damage in musicians with normal audiometric thresholds. Hearing Research, 395, 108021

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