The natural rhythms of speech help a listener follow what is being said, especially in noisy conditions. There is increasing evidence for links between rhythm abilities and language skills; however, the role of rhythm-related expertise in perceiving speech in noise is unknown. The present study assesses musical competence (rhythmic and melodic discrimination), speech-in-noise perception and auditory working memory in young adult percussionists, vocalists and non-musicians. Outcomes reveal that better ability to discriminate rhythms is associated with better sentence-in-noise (but not words-in-noise) perception across all participants. These outcomes suggest that sensitivity to rhythm helps a listener understand unfolding speech patterns in degraded listening conditions, and that observations of a "musician advantage" for speech-in-noise perception may be mediated in part by superior rhythm skills.
Keywords: Auditory; Language; Listening; Music; Rhythm; Speech-in-noise perception; Temporal processing.