Acoustics Australia

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 205–214 | Cite as

Comparison of the Effects on Memory Tasks of Babble and Broadband Noise

  • Brett R. C. Molesworth
  • Marion Burgess
  • Chloe Wilcock
Original Paper


The comparative effects on both working memory and recognition memory of the same A-weighted noise levels of background noise, typically of that present in many transportation work areas, were investigated (55 and 65 dBA). One noise was a babble, multi-talker incomprehensible speech and representative of the many work areas dealing with administrative tasks. The other noise was broadband and similar to services and machinery noise. Forty participants, half non-native English speakers, were asked to complete three different working memory tests (linguistics, grammatical reasoning and mathematics) and one recognition memory test (cued recall) in the presence of the two types of noise at the two different levels. Broadband noise at 65 dBA was found to adversely affect recall by as much as 15%. The native language advantage was only evident with the linguistic working memory task. The findings highlight the interplay between type of noise, level of noise, demand of task, and language background of the person completing the task, and also the limitations of the use of dBA alone for assessment of acceptability of a workspace.


Babble Wideband noise Workplace Memory Safety 



The authors would like to thank the Australian Acoustical Society for an Education Grant that provided some support for this project and the participants who volunteered their time to assist with the research.


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Copyright information

© Australian Acoustical Society 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of AviationUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Engineering and Information TechnologyUniversity of New South WalesCanberraAustralia

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