ISCA Workshop on Plasticity in Speech Perception (PSP2005)

Senate House, London, UK
June 15-17, 2005

Auditory Learning: Implications for Speech Perception

David R. Moore

MRC Institute of Hearing Research

Auditory learning resulting from repeated discrimination and other forms of auditory training has been associated with improved, broad-based outcome measures of speech perception. However, both the existence and nature of this association remain contentious. There seem to be several more or less distinct issues in the debate. The first is to what extent basic auditory processing skills contribute directly to speech perception and, in particular, whether poor auditory processing is causally connected with various language disabilities. A second issue is whether, by whatever mechanism, auditory training can improve speech perception. If it does, a third issue is the nature of that mechanism - sensory learning or a 'higher level' cognitive enhancement? A fourth issue is how we can optimise auditory learning for speech perception and how optimization protocols transfer within and between tasks.

In this presentation I will report the results of a study that used phoneme discrimination training to achieve significantly enhanced phonological awareness (PhAB receptive indices) in mainstream school children aged 8- 9 years. I will then review a series of experiments in which we have used simple acoustic stimuli to examine how auditory training may be structured to achieve optimal learning. Several surprising results have emerged, including demonstrations of very rapid auditory learning, and efficient and effective learning without a physical difference between the training stimuli. Overall, the results suggest a positive effect of auditory training on speech perception, but also suggest that the training is acting at a level of processing I tentatively characterize as task-specific auditory attention. These findings meld well with those of others suggesting that speech, language and reading disabilities may relate more to poor auditory attention than to impaired sensory processing per se.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Moore, David R. (2005): "Auditory learning: implications for speech perception", In PSP2005, 196-200.