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J Acoust Soc Am. 2011 Nov;130(5):3028-37. doi: 10.1121/1.3641407.

The effects of selective consonant amplification on sentence recognition in noise by hearing-impaired listeners.

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Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas 75080, USA.


Weak consonants (e.g., stops) are more susceptible to noise than vowels, owing partially to their lower intensity. This raises the question whether hearing-impaired (HI) listeners are able to perceive (and utilize effectively) the high-frequency cues present in consonants. To answer this question, HI listeners were presented with clean (noise absent) weak consonants in otherwise noise-corrupted sentences. Results indicated that HI listeners received significant benefit in intelligibility (4 dB decrease in speech reception threshold) when they had access to clean consonant information. At extremely low signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) levels, however, HI listeners received only 64% of the benefit obtained by normal-hearing listeners. This lack of equitable benefit was investigated in Experiment 2 by testing the hypothesis that the high-frequency cues present in consonants were not audible to HI listeners. This was tested by selectively amplifying the noisy consonants while leaving the noisy sonorant sounds (e.g., vowels) unaltered. Listening tests indicated small (∼10%), but statistically significant, improvements in intelligibility at low SNR conditions when the consonants were amplified in the high-frequency region. Selective consonant amplification provided reliable low-frequency acoustic landmarks that in turn facilitated a better lexical segmentation of the speech stream and contributed to the small improvement in intelligibility.

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