Vowel identification by amplitude and phase contrast

Michelle R. Molis, Anna Diedesch, Frederick Gallun, Marjorie R. Leek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Vowel identification is largely dependent on listeners' access to the frequency of two or three peaks in the amplitude spectrum. Earlier work has demonstrated that, whereas normal-hearing listeners can identify harmonic complexes with vowel-like spectral shapes even with very little amplitude contrast between "formant" components and remaining harmonic components, listeners with hearing loss require greater amplitude differences. This is likely the result of the poor frequency resolution that often accompanies hearing loss. Here, we describe an additional acoustic dimension for emphasizing formant versus non-formant harmonics that may supplement amplitude contrast information. The purpose of this study was to determine whether listeners were able to identify "vowel-like" sounds using temporal (component phase) contrast, which may be less affected by cochlear loss than spectral cues, and whether overall identification improves when congruent temporal and spectral information are provided together. Five normal-hearing and five hearing-impaired listeners identified three vowels over many presentations. Harmonics representing formant peaks were varied in amplitude, phase, or a combination of both. In addition to requiring less amplitude contrast, normal-hearing listeners could accurately identify the sounds with less phase contrast than required by people with hearing loss. However, both normal-hearing and hearing-impaired groups demonstrated the ability to identify vowel-like sounds based solely on component phase shifts, with no amplitude contrast information, and they also showed improved performance when congruent phase and amplitude cues were combined. For nearly all listeners, the combination of spectral and temporal information improved identification in comparison to either dimension alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-137
Number of pages13
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • formants
  • frequency selectivity
  • hearing impairment
  • phase
  • spectral contrast
  • vowel identification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


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