The Effect of Noise on the Utilization of Fundamental Frequency and Formants for Voice Discrimination in Children and Adults

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The ability to discriminate between talkers based on their fundamental (F0) and formant frequencies can facilitate speech comprehension in multi-talker environments. To date, voice discrimination (VD) of children and adults has only been tested in quiet conditions. This study examines the effect of speech-shaped noise on the use of F0 only, formants only, and the combined F0 + formant cues for VD. A total of 24 adults (18–35 years) and 16 children (7–10 years) underwent VD threshold assessments in quiet and noisy environments with the tested cues. Thresholds were obtained using a three-interval, three-alternative, two-down, one-up adaptive procedure. The results demonstrated that noise negatively impacted the utilization of formants for VD. Consequently, F0 became the lead cue for VD for the adults in noisy environments, whereas the formants were the more accessible cue for VD in quiet environments. For children, however, both cues were poorly utilized in noisy environments. The finding that robust cues such as formants are not readily available for VD in noisy conditions has significant clinical implications. Specifically, the reliance on F0 in noisy environments highlights the difficulties that children encounter in multi-talker environments due to their poor F0 discrimination and emphasizes the importance of maintaining F0 cues in speech-processing strategies tailored for hearing devices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10752
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • F0
  • background noise
  • formants
  • school-age children
  • spectral processing
  • speech perception
  • temporal processing
  • voice discrimination

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering
  • Instrumentation
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • General Materials Science
  • Computer Science Applications


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