Speech perception in noise with formant enhancement for older listeners
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Degraded speech intelligibility in background noise is a common complaint of listeners with hearing loss. The purpose of the current study is to investigate the effect of spectral enhancement of the second formant frequency (F2) on speech identification in noise for older listeners with hearing loss (HI) and with normal hearing (NH). This study also aims to explore whether F2 enhancement improves speech perception in noise across languages such as American English and Mandarin Chinese. Target words (e.g., color and digit) were selected and presented based on the paradigm of coordinate response measure (CRM) corpus of English and Chinese versions. Speech recognition thresholds with original and F2-enhanced speech in two-talker and six-talker babble were examined for English and Chinese listeners with NH and HI. As expected, listeners with NH had better performance on speech perception in noise than listeners with HI in almost all listening conditions. More importantly, thresholds of both NH and HI groups were improved for enhanced speech signals across languages, primarily in two-talker babble, but not in 6-talker babble. Compared with the NH group, listeners with HI showed significantly greater benefits in the most challenging condition (e.g., low signal-to-noise ratios). F2-enhancement benefits did not significantly correlate with memory abilities. Moreover, the speech intelligibility index (SII) model interpreted the F2-enhancement benefits for the two language groups in multi-talker babble. That is, the perceptual improvement was mainly associated with the greater availability of acoustic cues of speech with F2 enhancement in the two-talker babble, but not in the six-talker babble. Overall, speech sounds with F2 enhancement may improve listeners’ speech perception in noise across different languages, possibly due to a greater amount of speech information available.
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