Limiting Spectral Resolution in Speech for Listeners With Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Turner, Christopher W.
August 1999
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Aug1999, Vol. 42 Issue 4, p773
Academic Journal
Consonant recognition was measured as a Function of the degree of spectral resolution of the speech stimulus in normally hearing listeners and listeners with moderate sensorineural hearing loss. Previous work (Turner, Souza, and Forget, 1995) has shown that listeners with sensorineural hearing loss could recognize consonants as well as listeners with normal hearing when speech was processed to have only one channel of spectral resolution. The hypothesis tested in the present experiment was that when speech was limited to a small number of spectral channels, both normally hearing and hearing-impaired listeners would continue to perform similarly. As the stimuli were presented with finer degrees of spectral resolution, and the poorer-than-normal spectral resolving abilities of the hearing-impaired listeners became a limiting factor, one would predict that the performance of the hearing-impaired listeners would then become poorer than the normally hearing listeners. Previous research on the frequency-resolution abilities of listeners with mild-to-moderate hearing loss suggests that these listeners hove critical bandwidths three to four times larger than do listeners with normal hearing. In the present experiment, speech stimuli were processed to have 1, 2, 4, or 8 channels of spectral information. Results for the 1 -channel speech condition were consistent with the previous study in that both groups of listeners performed similarly. However, the hearing-impaired listeners performed more poorly than the normally hearing listeners for all other conditions, including the 2-channel speech condition. These results would appear to contradict the original hypothesis, in that listeners with moderate sensorineural hearing loss would be expected to have at least 2 channels of frequency resolution. One possibility is that the frequency resolution of hearing-impaired listeners may be much poorer than previously estimated; however, a subsequent filtered speech experiment did not support this explanation. The present results do indicate that although listeners with hearing loss are able to use the temporal-envelope information of a single channel in a normal fashion, when given the opportunity to combine information across more than one channel, they show deficient performance.


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