Speech perception is similar for musicians and non-musicians across a wide range of conditions

Sara M.K. Madsen, Marton Marschall, Torsten Dau, Andrew J. Oxenham

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6 Scopus citations


It remains unclear whether musical training is associated with improved speech understanding in a noisy environment, with different studies reaching differing conclusions. Even in those studies that have reported an advantage for highly trained musicians, it is not known whether the benefits measured in laboratory tests extend to more ecologically valid situations. This study aimed to establish whether musicians are better than non-musicians at understanding speech in a background of competing speakers or speech-shaped noise under more realistic conditions, involving sounds presented in space via a spherical array of 64 loudspeakers, rather than over headphones, with and without simulated room reverberation. The study also included experiments testing fundamental frequency discrimination limens (F0DLs), interaural time differences limens (ITDLs), and attentive tracking. Sixty-four participants (32 non-musicians and 32 musicians) were tested, with the two groups matched in age, sex, and IQ as assessed with Raven’s Advanced Progressive matrices. There was a significant benefit of musicianship for F0DLs, ITDLs, and attentive tracking. However, speech scores were not significantly different between the two groups. The results suggest no musician advantage for understanding speech in background noise or talkers under a variety of conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10404
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Oticon Centre of Excellence for Hearing and Speech Sciences (CHeSS), the Center for Applied Research (Cahr), the Carlsberg Foundation, and NIH grant R01 DC005216. We would like to thank Kevin Woods, Jens Bo Nielsen, and Axel Ahrens for MATLAB code and useful advice and Eriksholm Research Centre for providing us with the multi-talker version of the Dantale II speech material.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).


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