The perceptual significance of high-frequency energy in the human voice

Brian B. Monson, Eric J. Hunter, Andrew J. Lotto, Brad H. Story

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While human vocalizations generate acoustical energy at frequencies up to (and beyond) 20 kHz, the energy at frequencies above about 5 kHz has traditionally been neglected in speech perception research. The intent of this paper is to review (1) the historical reasons for this research trend and (2) the work that continues to elucidate the perceptual significance of high-frequency energy (HFE) in speech and singing. The historical and physical factors reveal that, while HFE was believed to be unnecessary and/or impractical for applications of interest, it was never shown to be perceptually insignificant. Rather, the main causes for focus on low-frequency energy appear to be because the low-frequency portion of the speech spectrum was seen to be sufficient (from a perceptual standpoint), or the difficulty of HFE research was too great to be justifiable (from a technological standpoint). The advancement of technology continues to overcome concerns stemming from the latter reason. Likewise, advances in our understanding of the perceptual effects of HFE now cast doubt on the first cause. Emerging evidence indicates that HFE plays a more significant role than previously believed, and should thus be considered in speech and voice perception research, especially in research involving children and the hearing impaired.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number587
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJUN
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Acoustics
  • High-frequency
  • Singing
  • Speech perception
  • Voice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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