The role of temporal fine structure processing in pitch perception, masking, and speech perception for normal-hearing and hearing-impaired people

J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2008 Dec;9(4):399-406. doi: 10.1007/s10162-008-0143-x. Epub 2008 Oct 15.


Complex broadband sounds are decomposed by the auditory filters into a series of relatively narrowband signals, each of which can be considered as a slowly varying envelope (E) superimposed on a more rapid temporal fine structure (TFS). Both E and TFS information are represented in the timing of neural discharges, although TFS information as defined here depends on phase locking to individual cycles of the stimulus waveform. This paper reviews the role played by TFS in masking, pitch perception, and speech perception and concludes that cues derived from TFS play an important role for all three. TFS may be especially important for the ability to "listen in the dips" of fluctuating background sounds when detecting nonspeech and speech signals. Evidence is reviewed suggesting that cochlear hearing loss reduces the ability to use TFS cues. The perceptual consequences of this, and reasons why it may happen, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Hearing Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Perceptual Masking / physiology*
  • Persons With Hearing Impairments
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Speech Perception / physiology*