8th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association

Antwerp, Belgium
August 27-31, 2007

The Role of Outer Hair Cell Function in the Perception of Synthetic versus Natural Speech

Maria Wolters (1), Pauline Campbell (2), Christine DePlacido (2), Amy Liddell (2), David Owens (2)

(1) University of Edinburgh, UK
(2) Queen Margaret University, UK

Hearing loss as assessed by pure-tone audiometry (PTA) is significantly correlated with the intelligibility of synthetic speech. However, PTA is a subjective audiological measure that assesses the entire auditory pathway and does not discriminate between the different afferent and efferent contributions. In this paper, we focus on one particular aspect of hearing that has been shown to correlate with hearing loss: outer hair cell (OHC) function. One role of OHCs is to increase sensitivity and frequency selectivity. This function of OHCs can be assessed quickly and objectively through otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing, which is little known outside the field of audiology. We find that OHC function affects the perception of human speech, but not that of synthetic speech. This has important implications not just for audiological and electrophysiological research, but also for adapting speech synthesis to ageing ears.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Wolters, Maria / Campbell, Pauline / DePlacido, Christine / Liddell, Amy / Owens, David (2007): "The role of outer hair cell function in the perception of synthetic versus natural speech", In INTERSPEECH-2007, 366-369.