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J Acoust Soc Am. 2015 Apr;137(4):2004-14. doi: 10.1121/1.4916203.

Measuring the effects of spectral smearing and enhancement on speech recognition in noise for adults and children.

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Department of Otolaryngology, The Ohio State University, 915 Olentangy River Road, Suite 4000, Columbus, Ohio 43212.


Broadened auditory filters associated with sensorineural hearing loss have clearly been shown to diminish speech recognition in noise for adults, but far less is known about potential effects for children. This study examined speech recognition in noise for adults and children using simulated auditory filters of different widths. Specifically, 5 groups (20 listeners each) of adults or children (5 and 7 yrs), were asked to recognize sentences in speech-shaped noise. Seven-year-olds listened at 0 dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) only; 5-yr-olds listened at +3 or 0 dB SNR; and adults listened at 0 or -3 dB SNR. Sentence materials were processed both to smear the speech spectrum (i.e., simulate broadened filters), and to enhance the spectrum (i.e., simulate narrowed filters). Results showed: (1) Spectral smearing diminished recognition for listeners of all ages; (2) spectral enhancement did not improve recognition, and in fact diminished it somewhat; and (3) interactions were observed between smearing and SNR, but only for adults. That interaction made age effects difficult to gauge. Nonetheless, it was concluded that efforts to diagnose the extent of broadening of auditory filters and to develop techniques to correct this condition could benefit patients with hearing loss, especially children.

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