Speech comprehension is resistant to acoustic distortion in the input, reflecting listeners' ability to adjust perceptual processes to match the speech input. For noise-vocoded sentences, a manipulation that removes spectral detail from speech, listeners' reporting improved from near 0% to 70% correct over 30 sentences (Experiment 1). Learning was enhanced if listeners heard distorted sentences while they knew the identity of the undistorted target (Experiments 2 and 3). Learning was absent when listeners were trained with nonword sentences (Experiments 4 and 5), although the meaning of the training sentences did not affect learning (Experiment 5). Perceptual learning of noise-vocoded speech depends on higher level information, consistent with top-down, lexically driven learning. Similar processes may facilitate comprehension of speech in an unfamiliar accent or following cochlear implantation.
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