Exposure to modified speech has been shown to benefit children with language-learning impairments with respect to their language skills (M. M. Merzenich et al., 1998; P. Tallal et al., 1996). In the study by Tallal and colleagues, the speech modification consisted of both slowing down and amplifying fast, transitional elements of speech. In this study, we examined whether the benefits of modified speech could be extended to provide intelligibility improvements for children with severe-to-profound hearing impairment who wear sensory aids. In addition, the separate effects on intelligibility of slowing down and amplifying speech were evaluated. Two groups of listeners were employed: 8 severe-to-profoundly hearing-impaired children and 5 children with normal hearing. Four speech-processing conditions were tested: (1) natural, unprocessed speech; (2) envelope-amplified speech; (3) slowed speech; and (4) both slowed and envelope-amplified speech. For each condition, three types of speech materials were used: words in sentences, isolated words, and syllable contrasts. To degrade the performance of the normal-hearing children, all testing was completed with a noise background. Results from the hearing-impaired children showed that all varieties of modified speech yielded either equivalent or poorer intelligibility than unprocessed speech. For words in sentences and isolated words, the slowing-down of speech had no effect on intelligibility scores whereas envelope amplification, both alone and combined with slowing-down, yielded significantly lower scores. Intelligibility results from normal-hearing children listening in noise were somewhat similar to those from hearing-impaired children. For isolated words, the slowing-down of speech had no effect on intelligibility whereas envelope amplification degraded intelligibility. For both subject groups, speech processing had no statistically significant effect on syllable discrimination. In summary, without extensive exposure to the speech processing conditions, children with impaired hearing and children with normal hearing listening in noise received no intelligibility advantage from either slowed speech or envelope-amplified speech.
- Envelope modification of speech
- Hearing-impaired listeners
- Speech perception
- Time-expansion of speech