Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development (JRRD)

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Measuring consonant identification in nonsense syllables, words, and sentences

David. L. Woods, PhD, et al.


Figure 1. Trial structure. Trials were cued by 1.0 kHz tone. After 1.0 s, two independent 1,200 ms noise bursts were presented through left and right loudspeakers. Consonant-vowel-consonants (CVCs) were pre-sented simultaneously through both loudspeakers at random intervals after noise-burst onset. Noise amplitudes were linearly adjusted over 100 ms interval during midvowel segment of CVC for appropriate masking levels for different initial and final consonants.

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) produces deficits in speech comprehension in noise that are due primarily to impairments in identifying consonants. Here, we describe the California Syllable Test (CaST) that quantifies the identification of common American English consonants. In experiment I, 16 young subjects with normal hearing identified 720 consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) syllables in three test sessions. Consonants were identified slightly more accurately in words than nonsense syllables, and small interactions were found between the processing of initial and final consonants. Consonant identification performance correlated strongly with sentence reception thresholds (SeRTs) measured with both the Hearing in Noise Test and QuickSIN. At SeRTs, subjects with normal hearing could identify 32.5% of consonants in isolated CVCs. In experiment II, a patient with moderate SNHL showed large elevations in consonant identification thresholds and smaller elevations in SeRTs. At SeRT levels, the patient could identify only 12.5% of consonants in isolated CVCs, indicating that sentence comprehension relied disproportionately on vowel cues and semantic constraints. Consonant-profile analysis revealed disproportionate impairments in identifying consonants dependent on high-frequency acoustic cues. Consonant confusion analysis revealed a reorganization of consonant perception. The CaST is a promising tool for evaluating consonant-specific processing deficits in patients who are hearing impaired.

Volume 47 Number 3, 2010
   Pages 243 — 260


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Last Reviewed or Updated  Tuesday, May 4, 2010 11:39 AM