Robustness of speech intelligibility at moderate levels of spectral degradation

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The current study investigated how amplitude and phase information differentially contribute to speech intelligibility. Listeners performed a word-identification task after hearing spec-trally degraded sentences. Each stimulus was degraded by first dividing it into segments, then the amplitude and phase components of each segment were decorrelated indepen-dently to various degrees relative to those of the original segment. Segments were then concatenated into their original sequence to present to the listener. We used three segment lengths: 30 ms (phoneme length), 250 ms (syllable length), and full sentence (non-seg-mented). We found that for intermediate spectral correlation values, segment length is gen-erally inconsequential to intelligibility. Overall, intelligibility was more adversely affected by phase-spectrum decorrelation than by amplitude-spectrum decorrelation. If the phase infor-mation was left intact, decorrelating the amplitude spectrum to intermediate values had no effect on intelligibility. If the amplitude information was left intact, decorrelating the phase spectrum to intermediate values significantly degraded intelligibility. Some exceptions to this rule are described. These results delineate the range of amplitude-and phase-spectrum correlations necessary for speech processing and its dependency on the temporal window of analysis (phoneme or syllable length). Results further point to the robustness of speech information in environments that acoustically degrade cues to intelligibility (e.g., reverberant or noisy environments).




Broussard, S., Hickok, G., & Saberi, K. (2017). Robustness of speech intelligibility at moderate levels of spectral degradation. PLoS ONE, 12(7).

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