Perceptual learning of /f/-/s/ by older listeners

Scharenborg, O., Janse, E., & Weber, A. (2012). Perceptual learning of /f/-/s/ by older listeners. In Proceedings of INTERSPEECH 2012: 13th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association (pp. 398-401).
Young listeners can quickly modify their interpretation of a speech sound when a talker produces the sound ambiguously. Young Dutch listeners rely mainly on the higher frequencies to distinguish between /f/ and /s/, but these higher frequencies are particularly vulnerable to age-related hearing loss. We therefore tested whether older Dutch listeners can show perceptual retuning given an ambiguous pronunciation in between /f/ and /s/. Results of a lexically-guided perceptual learning experiment showed that older Dutch listeners are still able to learn non-standard pronunciations of /f/ and /s/. Possibly, the older listeners have learned to rely on other acoustic cues, such as formant transitions, to distinguish between /f/ and /s/. However, the size and duration of the perceptual effect is influenced by hearing loss, with listeners with poorer hearing showing a smaller and a shorter-lived learning effect.
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