School-age children benefit from voice gender cue differences for the perception of speech in competing speech

Leanne Nagels*, Etienne Gaudrain, Deborah Vickers, Petra Hendriks, Deniz Başkent

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Differences in speakers' voice characteristics, such as mean fundamental frequency (F0) and vocal-tract length (VTL), that primarily define speakers' so-called perceived voice gender facilitate the perception of speech in competing speech. Perceiving speech in competing speech is particularly challenging for children, which may relate to their lower sensitivity to differences in voice characteristics than adults. This study investigated the development of the benefit from F0 and VTL differences in school-age children (4–12 years) for separating two competing speakers while tasked with comprehending one of them and also the relationship between this benefit and their corresponding voice discrimination thresholds. Children benefited from differences in F0, VTL, or both cues at all ages tested. This benefit proportionally remained the same across age, although overall accuracy continued to differ from that of adults. Additionally, children's benefit from F0 and VTL differences and their overall accuracy were not related to their discrimination thresholds. Hence, although children's voice discrimination thresholds and speech in competing speech perception abilities develop throughout the school-age years, children already show a benefit from voice gender cue differences early on. Factors other than children's discrimination thresholds seem to relate more closely to their developing speech in competing speech perception abilities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3328-3344
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Volume149
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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