Spectral shape discrimination by hearing-impaired and normal-hearing listeners

Jennifer J. Lentz, Marjorie R. Leek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The ability to discriminate between sounds with different spectral shapes was evaluated for normal-hearing and hearing-impaired listeners. Listeners discriminated between a standard stimulus and a signal stimulus in which half of the standard components were decreased in level and half were increased in level. In one condition, the standard stimulus was the sum of six equal-amplitude tones (equal-SPL), and in another the standard stimulus was the sum of six tones at equal sensation levels re: audiometric thresholds for individual subjects (equal-SL). Spectral weights were estimated in conditions where the amplitudes of the individual tones were perturbed slightly on every presentation. Sensitivity was similar in all conditions for normal-hearing and hearing-impaired listeners. The presence of perturbation and equal-SL components increased thresholds for both groups, but only small differences in weighting strategy were measured between the groups depending on whether the equal-SPL or equal-SL condition was tested. The average data suggest that normal-hearing listeners may rely more on the central components of the spectrum whereas hearing-impaired listeners may have been more likely to use the edges. However, individual weighting functions were quite variable, especially for the HI listeners, perhaps reflecting difficulty in processing changes in spectral shape due to hearing loss. Differences in weighting strategy without changes in sensitivity suggest that factors other than spectral weights, such as internal noise or difficulty encoding a reference stimulus, also may dominate performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1604-1616
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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