Voice Gender and the Segregation of Competing Talkers: Perceptual Learning in Cochlear Implant Simulations
Sullivan, J. R.
Assmann, Peter F.
Schafer, Erin C.
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Two experiments explored the role of differences in voice gender in the recognition of speech masked by a competing talker in cochlear implant simulations. Experiment 1 confirmed that listeners with normal hearing receive little benefit from differences in voice gender between a target and masker sentence in four- and eight-channel simulations, consistent with previous findings that cochlear implants deliver an impoverished representation of the cues for voice gender. However, gender differences led to small but significant improvements in word recognition with 16 and 32 channels. Experiment 2 assessed the benefits of perceptual training on the use of voice gender cues in an eight-channel simulation. Listeners were assigned to one of four groups: (1) word recognition training with target and masker differing in gender; (2) word recognition training with same-gender target and masker; (3) gender recognition training; or (4) control with no training. Significant improvements in word recognition were observed from pre- to post-test sessions for all three training groups compared to the control group. These improvements were maintained at the late session (one week following the last training session) for all three groups. There was an overall improvement in masked word recognition performance provided by gender mismatch following training, but the amount of benefit did not differ as a function of the type of training. The training effects observed here are consistent with a form of rapid perceptual learning that contributes to the segregation of competing voices but does not specifically enhance the benefits provided by voice gender cues.
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