Recent evidence suggests that sensitivity to the temporal fine structure (TFS) of sounds is adversely affected by cochlear hearing loss. This may partly explain the difficulties experienced by people with cochlear hearing loss in understanding speech when background sounds, especially fluctuating backgrounds, are present. We describe a test for assessing sensitivity to TFS. The test can be run using any PC with a sound card. The test involves discrimination of a harmonic complex tone (H), with a fundamental frequency F0, from a tone in which all harmonics are shifted upwards by the same amount in Hertz, resulting in an inharmonic tone (I). The phases of the components are selected randomly for every stimulus. Both tones have an envelope repetition rate equal to F0, but the tones differ in their TFS. To prevent discrimination based on spectral cues, all tones are passed through a fixed bandpass filter, usually centred at 11F0. A background noise is used to mask combination tones. The results show that, for normal-hearing subjects, learning effects are small, and the effect of the level of testing is also small. The test provides a simple, quick, and robust way to measure sensitivity to TFS.
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