Processing F0 with cochlear implants: Modulation frequency discrimination and speech intonation recognition

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Fundamental frequency (F0) processing by cochlear implant (CI) listeners was measured using a psychophysical task and a speech intonation recognition task. Listeners’ Weber fractions for modulation frequency discrimination were measured using an adaptive, 3-interval, forced-choice paradigm: stimuli were presented through a custom research interface. In the speech intonation recognition task, listeners were asked to indicate whether resynthesized bisyllabic words, when presented in the free field through the listeners’ everyday speech processor, were question-like or statement-like. The resynthesized tokens were systematically manipulated to have different initial-F0s to represent male vs. female voices, and different F0 contours (i.e. falling, flat, and rising) Although the CI listeners showed considerable variation in performance on both tasks, significant correlations were observed between the CI listeners’ sensitivity to modulation frequency in the psychophysical task and their performance in intonation recognition. Consistent with their greater reliance on temporal cues, the CI listeners’ performance in the intonation recognition task was significantly poorer with the higher initial-F0 stimuli than with the lower initial-F0 stimuli. Similar results were obtained with normal hearing listeners attending to noiseband-vocoded CI simulations with reduced spectral resolution.

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