Musicians do not benefit from differences in fundamental frequency when listening to speech in competing speech backgrounds

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Recent studies disagree on whether musicians have an advantage over non-musicians in understanding speech in noise. However, it has been suggested that musicians may be able to use differences in fundamental frequency (F0) to better understand target speech in the presence of interfering talkers. Here we studied a relatively large (N = 60) cohort of young adults, equally divided between non-musicians and highly trained musicians, to test whether the musicians were better able to understand speech either in noise or in a two-talker competing speech masker. The target speech and competing speech were presented with either their natural F0 contours or on a monotone F0, and the F0 difference between the target and masker was systematically varied. As expected, speech intelligibility improved with increasing F0 difference between the target and the two-talker masker for both natural and monotone speech. However, no significant intelligibility advantage was observed for musicians over non-musicians in any condition. Although F0 discrimination was significantly better for musicians than for non-musicians, it was not correlated with speech scores. Overall, the results do not support the hypothesis that musical training leads to improved speech intelligibility in complex speech or noise backgrounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12624
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work was supported by NIH grant R01 DC005216 (awarded to A.J.O.) and by the Carlsberg Foundation’s Postdoctoral Fellowship in Denmark (awarded to S.M.K.M.). Travel grants from the Augustinus Foundation, P.A. Fisker’s Foundation, and the Knud Højgaard Foundation (awarded to S.M.K.M.) funded the research visit at the University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).


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