This study investigated the potential influence of cognitive factors on subjective sound-quality ratings. To this end, 34 older subjects (ages 61–79) with near-normal hearing thresholds rated the perceived sound quality of speech and music stimuli that had been distorted by linear filtering, non-linear processing, and multiband dynamic compression. In addition, all subjects performed the Reading Span Test (RST) to assess working memory capacity (WMC), and the test d2-R (a visual test of letter and symbol identification) was used to assess the subjects' selective and sustained attention. The quality-rating scores, which reflected the susceptibility to signal distortions, were characterized by large interindividual variances. Linear mixed modelling with age, high-frequency pure tone threshold, RST, and d2-R results as independent variables showed that individual speech-quality ratings were significantly related to age and attention. Music-quality ratings were significantly related to WMC. Taking these factors into account might lead to improved sound-quality prediction models. Future studies should, however, address the question of whether these effects are due to procedural mechanisms or actually do show that cognitive abilities mediate sensitivity to sound-quality modifications.

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