Purpose: Frequency fluctuations in human voices can usually be described as coherent frequency modulation (FM). As listeners with hearing impairment (HI listeners) are typically less sensitive to FM than listeners with normal hearing (NH listeners), this study investigated whether hearing loss affects the perception of a sung vowel based on FM cues. Method: Vibrato maps were obtained in 14 NH and 12 HI listeners with different degrees of musical experience. The FM rate and FM excursion of a synthesized vowel, to which coherent FM was applied, were adjusted until a singing voice emerged. Results: In NH listeners, adding FM to the steady vowel components produced perception of a singing voice for FM rates between 4.1 and 7.5 Hz and FM excursions between 17 and 83 cents on average. In contrast, HI listeners showed substantially broader vibrato maps. Individual differences in map boundaries were, overall, not correlated with audibility or frequency selectivity at the vowel fundamental frequency, with no clear effect of musical experience. Conclusion: Overall, it was shown that hearing loss affects the perception of a sung vowel based on FM-rate and FM-excursion cues, possibly due to deficits in FM detection or discrimination or to a degraded ability to follow the rate of frequency changes.
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 2014, Vol 57