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Review
. 2017 Oct 17;60(10):3001-3008.
doi: 10.1044/2017_JSLHR-H-17-0070.

Speech Perception in Complex Acoustic Environments: Developmental Effects

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Free PMC article
Review

Speech Perception in Complex Acoustic Environments: Developmental Effects

Lori J Leibold. J Speech Lang Hear Res. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Purpose: The ability to hear and understand speech in complex acoustic environments follows a prolonged time course of development. The purpose of this article is to provide a general overview of the literature describing age effects in susceptibility to auditory masking in the context of speech recognition, including a summary of findings related to the maturation of processes thought to facilitate segregation of target from competing speech.

Method: Data from published and ongoing studies are discussed, with a focus on synthesizing results from studies that address age-related changes in the ability to perceive speech in the presence of a small number of competing talkers.

Conclusions: This review provides a summary of the current state of knowledge that is valuable for researchers and clinicians. It highlights the importance of considering listener factors, such as age and hearing status, as well as stimulus factors, such as masker type, when interpreting masked speech recognition data.

Presentation video: http://cred.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2601620.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
This illustration highlights three stages of auditory processing. In the first stage, a combination of acoustic waveforms produced by three sources (a science teacher, students working on a project, the pump and filter of an aquarium) reaches the child's ear. In the second stage, represented as a spectrogram, the peripheral auditory system encodes the temporal, spectral, and intensity characteristics of these waveforms into a pattern of neural activity across auditory nerve fibers that is transmitted to higher levels within the auditory system. In the third stage, top-down auditory-perceptual, cognitive, and linguistic processing facilitate reconstruction of the auditory scene.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Group average percent correct scores for consonant identification are presented for 5- to 7-year-olds (circles), 8- to 10-year-olds (squares), 11- to 13-year-olds (triangles), and young adults (hexagons), as adapted from Leibold and Buss (2013). Error bars are ± 1 SEM. Data on the left show performance in a speech-shaped noise masker, and data on the right show performance in a two-talker speech masker. Note the magnitude of child–adult differences in the two-talker masker relative to the speech-shaped noise masker.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
Estimates of the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) required to obtain 70.7% word recognition in a two-talker masker are plotted as a function of age for individual children and young adults tested by Flaherty et al. (2017). Thresholds estimated using target and masker speech with the same fundamental frequency (unaltered F0) are shown by the open circles, and thresholds estimated using target speech shifted up by six semitones (shifted F0) are shown by the shaded triangles. Whereas older children and adults benefitted from a target/masker F0 difference, children younger than about 9 years did not.

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