The effects of decreased audibility produced by high-pass noise masking on cortical event-related potentials to speech sounds/ba/and/da

J Acoust Soc Am. 1997 Mar;101(3):1585-99. doi: 10.1121/1.418146.


This study investigated the effects of decreased audibility produced by high-pass noise masking on cortical event-related potentials (ERPs) N1, N2, and P3 to the speech sounds /ba/and/da/presented at 65 and 80 dB SPL. Normal-hearing subjects pressed a button in response to the deviant sound in an oddball paradigm. Broadband masking noise was presented at an intensity sufficient to completely mask the response to the 65-dB SPL speech sounds, and subsequently high-pass filtered at 4000, 2000, 1000, 500, and 250 Hz. With high-pass masking noise, pure-tone behavioral thresholds increased by an average of 38 dB at the high-pass cutoff and by 50 dB one octave above the cutoff frequency. Results show that as the cutoff frequency of the high-pass masker was lowered, ERP latencies to speech sounds increased and amplitudes decreased. The cutoff frequency where these changes first occurred and the rate of the change differed for N1 compared to N2, P3, and the behavioral measures. N1 showed gradual changes as the masker cutoff frequency was lowered. N2, P3, and behavioral measures showed marked changes below a masker cutoff of 2000 Hz. These results indicate that the decreased audibility resulting from the noise masking affects the various ERP components in a differential manner. N1 is related to the presence of audible stimulus energy, being present whether audible stimuli are discriminable or not. In contrast, N2 and P3 were absent when the stimuli were audible but not discriminable (i.e., when the second formant transitions were masked), reflecting stimulus discrimination. These data have implications regarding the effects of decreased audibility on cortical processing of speech sounds and for the study of cortical ERPs in populations with hearing impairment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Perceptual Masking*
  • Phonetics*
  • Reaction Time
  • Speech Acoustics*