Effects of stimulus variability on speech perception in listeners with hearing impairment

Karen Iler Kirk, David B. Pisoni, R. Christopher Miyamoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traditional word-recognition tests typically use phonetically balanced (PB) word lists produced by one talker at one speaking rate. Intelligibility measures based on these tests may not adequately evaluate the perceptual processes used to perceive speech under more natural listening conditions involving many sources of stimulus variability. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of stimulus variability and lexical difficulty on the speech-perception abilities of 17 adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. The effects of stimulus variability were studied by comparing word- identification performance in single-talker versus multiple-talker conditions and at different speaking rates. Lexical difficulty was assessed by comparing recognition of 'easy' words (i.e., words that occur frequently and have few phonemically similar neighbors) with 'hard' words (i.e., words that occur infrequently and have many similar neighbors). Subjects also completed a 20- item questionnaire to rate their speech understanding abilities in daily listening situations. Both sources of stimulus variability produced significant effects on speech intelligibility. Identification scores were poorer in the multiple-talker condition than in the single-talker condition, and word-recognition performance decreased as speaking rate increased. Lexical effects on speech intelligibility were also observed. Word- recognition performance was significantly higher for lexically easy words than lexically hard words. Finally, word-recognition performance was correlated with scores on the self-report questionnaire rating speech understanding under natural listening conditions. The pattern of results suggest that perceptually robust speech-discrimination tests are able to assess several underlying aspects of speech perception in the laboratory and clinic that appear to generalize to conditions encountered in natural listening situations where the listener is faced with many different sources of stimulus variability. That is, word-recognition performance measured under conditions where the talker varied from trial to trial was better correlated with self-reports of listening ability than was performance in a single- talker condition where variability was constrained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1395-1405
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Adults
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech perception
  • Stimulus variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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