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Binaural sluggishness in the perception of tone sequences and speech in noise

Culling, John Francis ORCID: and Colburn, H. Steven 2000. Binaural sluggishness in the perception of tone sequences and speech in noise. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 107 (1) , pp. 517-527. 10.1121/1.428320

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The binaural system is well-known for its sluggish response to changes in the interaural parameters to which it is sensitive. Theories of binaural unmasking have suggested that detection of signals in noise is mediated by detection of differences in interaural correlation. If these theories are correct, improvements in the intelligibility of speech in favorable binaural conditions is most likely mediated by spectro-temporal variations in interaural correlation of the stimulus which mirror the spectro-temporal amplitude modulations of the speech. However, binaural sluggishness should limit the temporal resolution of the representation of speech recovered by this means. The present study tested this prediction in two ways. First, listeners’ masked discrimination thresholds for ascending vs descending pure-tone arpeggios were measured as a function of rate of frequency change in the NoSo and NoSπ binaural configurations. Three-tone arpeggios were presented repeatedly and continuously for 1.6 s, masked by a 1.6-s burst of noise. In a two-interval task, listeners determined the interval in which the arpeggios were ascending. The results showed a binaural advantage of 12–14 dB for NoSπ at 3.3 arpeggios per s (arp/s), which reduced to 3–5 dB at 10.4 arp/s. This outcome confirmed that the discrimination of spectro-temporal patterns in noise is susceptible to the effects of binaural sluggishness. Second, listeners’ masked speech-reception thresholds were measured in speech-shaped noise using speech which was 1, 1.5, and 2 times the original articulation rate. The articulation rate was increased using a phase-vocoder technique which increased all the modulation frequencies in the speech without altering its pitch. Speech-reception thresholds were, on average, 5.2 dB lower for the NoSπ than for the NoSo configuration, at the original articulation rate. This binaural masking release was reduced to 2.8 dB when the articulation rate was doubled, but the most notable effect was a 6–8 dB increase in thresholds with articulation rate for both configurations. These results suggest that higher modulation frequencies in masked signals cannot be temporally resolved by the binaural system, but that the useful modulation frequencies in speech are sufficiently low (<5 Hz) that they are invulnerable to the effects of binaural sluggishness, even at elevated articulation rates.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords: hearing; speech intelligibility
Publisher: Acoustical Society of America
ISSN: 0001-4966
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2022 13:24

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