Association between tinnitus pitch and consonant recognition in noise

Yihsin Tai, Fatima T. Husain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Difficulties in speech-in-noise understanding are often reported in individuals with tinnitus. Building on our previous findings that speech-in-noise performance is correlated with subjective loudness of tinnitus, this study aimed to investigate the effect of tinnitus pitch on consonant recognitioninnoise. Method: Pure-tone audiometry and the Quick Speech-in-Noise Test were conducted on 66 participants categorized into four groups by their hearing sensitivity and self-report of tinnitus. Consonant recognition scores at various frequency ranges were obtained at the 5 dB SNR condition of the Quick Speech-in-Noise Test. Participants with tinnitus also completed a tinnitus pitch-matching procedure. Correlation analyses were conducted between tinnitus pitch and the frequency of the worst consonant recognition, and the error rates based on word and sentence position were compared. Results: Regardless of hearing sensitivity, tinnitus pitch did not correlate with the frequency of the worst consonant recognition. Sentence-initial word recognition was affected by hearing loss, whereas sentence-final word recognition was not affected by hearing loss or tinnitus. In contrast to individuals with normal hearing, participants with hearing loss varied in full-sentence recognition, with those reporting tinnitus exhibiting significantly higher error rates. Conclusions: The findings suggest that the effect of tinnitus on consonant recognition in noise may involve higher level functions more than perceptual characteristics of tinnitus. Furthermore, for individuals with speech-in-noise concerns, clinical evaluation should address both hearing sensitivity and the presence of tinnitus. Future speech-in-noise studies should incorporate cognitive tests and, possibly, brain imaging to parse out the contribution of cognitive factors, such as cognitive control, in speech-in-noise in tinnitus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)916-929
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican journal of audiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Speech and Hearing


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