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J Acoust Soc Am. 2001 Oct;110(4):2085-95.

Individual differences in the processing of speech and nonspeech sounds by normal-hearing listeners.

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Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA.


While a large portion of the variance among listeners in speech recognition is associated with the audibility of components of the speech waveform, it is not possible to predict individual differences in the accuracy of speech processing strictly from the audiogram. This has suggested that some of the variance may be associated with individual differences in spectral or temporal resolving power, or acuity. Psychoacoustic measures of spectral-temporal acuity with nonspeech stimuli have been shown, however, to correlate only weakly (or not at all) with speech processing. In a replication and extension of an earlier study [Watson et al., J. Acoust. Soc. Am. Suppl. 1 71. S73 (1982)] 93 normal-hearing college students were tested on speech perception tasks (nonsense syllables, words, and sentences in a noise background) and on six spectral-temporal discrimination tasks using simple and complex nonspeech sounds. Factor analysis showed that the abilities that explain performance on the nonspeech tasks are quite distinct from those that account for performance on the speech tasks. Performance was significantly correlated among speech tasks and among nonspeech tasks. Either, (a) auditory spectral-temporal acuity for nonspeech sounds is orthogonal to speech processing abilities, or (b) the appropriate tasks or types of nonspeech stimuli that challenge the abilities required for speech recognition have yet to be identified.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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