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Perception of degraded-fo speech (Hsieh & Guo, 2023)

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posted on 2023-07-27, 20:21 authored by I-Hui Hsieh, Yu-Jyun Guo

Purpose: Pitch variations of the fundamental frequency (fo) contour contribute to speech perception in noisy environments, but whether musicians confer an advantage in speech in noise (SIN) with altered fo information remains unclear. This study investigated the effects of different levels of degraded fo contour (i.e., conveying lexical tone or intonation information) on musician advantage in speech-in-noise perception.

Method: A cohort of native Mandarin Chinese speakers, comprising 30 trained musicians and 30 nonmusicians, were tested on the intelligibility of Mandarin Chinese sentences with natural, flattened-tone, flattened-intonation, and flattened-all fo contours embedded in background noise masked under three signal-to-noise ratios (0, −5, and −9 dB). Pitch difference thresholds and innate musical skills associated with speech-in-noise benefits were also assessed.

Results: Speech intelligibility score improved with increasing signal-to-noise level for both musicians and nonmusicians. However, no musician advantage was observed for identifying any type of flattened-fo contour SIN. Musicians exhibited smaller fo pitch discrimination limens than nonmusicians, which correlated with benefits for perceiving speech with intact tone-level fo information. Regardless of musician status, performance on the pitch and accent musical-skill subtests correlated with speech intelligibility score.

Conclusions: Collectively, these results provide no evidence for a musician advantage for perceiving speech with distorted fo information in noisy environments. Results further show that perceptual musical skills on pitch and accent processing may benefit the perception of SIN, independent of formal musical training. Our findings suggest that the potential application of music training in speech perception in noisy backgrounds is not contingent on the ability to process fo pitch contours, at least for Mandarin Chinese speakers.

Supplemental Material S1. Pilot speech intelligibility results for identifying original, flat-intonation, flat-tone and flat-all fo Mandarin sentences in the no-noise condition.

Supplemental Material S2. Post-hoc comparisons across the five PROMS subtest score.

Supplemental Material S3. Post-hoc comparisons on the interaction between musicianship and PROMS subtest.

Supplemental Material S4. Post-hoc comparisons on performance accuracy with four different levels of degraded-fo speech conditions.

Supplemental Material S5. Post-hoc comparisons between different SNR levels on speech intelligibility.

Supplemental Material S6. Post-hoc comparisons on the interaction between fo-contour type and SNR.

Hsieh, I.-H., & Guo, Y.-J. (2023). No musician advantage in the perception of degraded–fundamental frequency speech in noisy environments. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 66(8), 2643–2655.


This work was supported by grants from the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan, Grant Numbers MOST109-2410-H-008-024 and MOST110-2410-H-008-038-MY2 to I.-H. Hsieh.