Recognition of spectrally degraded phonemes by younger, middle-aged, and older normal-hearing listeners

Kara C. Schvartz, Monita Chatterjee, Sandra Gordon-Salant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The effects of spectral degradation on vowel and consonant recognition abilities were measured in young, middle-aged, and older normal-hearing (NH) listeners. Noise-band vocoding techniques were used to manipulate the number of spectral channels and frequency-to-place alignment, thereby simulating cochlear implant (CI) processing. A brief cognitive test battery was also administered. The performance of younger NH listeners exceeded that of the middle-aged and older listeners, when stimuli were severely distorted (spectrally shifted); the older listeners performed only slightly worse than the middle-aged listeners. Significant intragroup variability was present in the middle-aged and older groups. A hierarchical multiple-regression analysis including data from all three age groups suggested that age was the primary factor related to shifted vowel recognition performance, but verbal memory abilities also contributed significantly to performance. A second regression analysis (within the middle-aged and older groups alone) revealed that verbal memory and speed of processing abilities were better predictors of performance than age alone. The overall results from the current investigation suggested that both chronological age and cognitive capacities contributed to the ability to recognize spectrally degraded phonemes. Such findings have important implications for the counseling and rehabilitation of adult CI recipients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3972-3988
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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