Masking release for consonant features in temporally fluctuating background noise.Hear Res. 2006 Jan; 211(1-2):74-84.HR
Consonant identification was measured for normal-hearing listeners using Vowel-Consonant-Vowel stimuli that were either unprocessed or spectrally degraded to force listeners to use temporal-envelope cues. Stimuli were embedded in a steady state or fluctuating noise masker and presented at a fixed signal-to-noise ratio. Fluctuations in the maskers were obtained by applying sinusoidal modulation to: (i) the amplitude of the noise (1st-order SAM masker) or (ii) the modulation depth of a 1st-order SAM noise (2nd-order SAM masker). The frequencies of the amplitude variation fm and the depth variation f'm were systematically varied. Consistent with previous studies, identification scores obtained with unprocessed speech were highest in an 8-Hz, 1st-order SAM masker. Reception of voicing and manner also peaked around fm=8 Hz, while the reception of place of articulation was maximal at a higher frequency (fm=32 Hz). When 2nd-order SAM maskers were used, identification scores and received information for each consonant feature were found to be independent of f'm. They decreased progressively with increasing carrier modulation frequency fm, and ranged between those obtained with the steady state and the 1st-order SAM maskers. Finally, the results obtained with spectrally degraded speech were similar across all types of maskers, although an 8% improvement in the reception of voicing was observed for modulated maskers with fm < 64 Hz compared to the steady-state masker. These data provide additional evidence that listeners take advantage of temporal minima in fluctuating background noises, and suggest that: (i) minima of different durations are required for an optimal reception of the three consonant features and (ii) complex (i.e., 2nd-order) envelope fluctuations in background noise do not degrade speech identification by interfering with speech-envelope processing.