The relationship between frequency selectivity and pitch discrimination: Sensorineural hearing loss

Joshua G.W. Bernstein, Andrew J. Oxenham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


This study tested the relationship between frequency selectivity and the minimum spacing between harmonics necessary for accurate f0 discrimination. Fundamental frequency difference limens (f0 DLs) were measured for ten listeners with moderate sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) and three normal-hearing listeners for sine- and random-phase harmonic complexes, bandpass filtered between 1500 and 3500 Hz, with f0's ranging from 75 to 500 Hz (or higher). All listeners showed a transition between small (good) f0 DLs at high f0's and large (poor) f0 DLs at low f0's, although the f0 at which this transition occurred (f0,tr) varied across listeners. Three measures thought to reflect frequency selectivity were significantly correlated to both the f 0,tr and the minimum f0 DL achieved at high f 0's: (1) the maximum f0 for which f0 DLs were phase dependent, (2) the maximum modulation frequency for which amplitude modulation and quasi-frequency modulation were discriminable, and (3) the equivalent rectangular bandwidth of the auditory filter, estimated using the notched-noise method. These results provide evidence of a relationship between f0 discrimination performance and frequency selectivity in listeners with SNHL, supporting "spectral" and "spectro-temporal" theories of pitch perception that rely on sharp tuning in the auditory periphery to accurately extract f0 information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3929-3945
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIH Grant Nos. R01-DC-05216 and 5T32-DC-00038. A previous version of the manuscript formed part of a Ph.D. thesis submitted by the first author to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We thank Andrea Simonson for her help in the recruiting and audiological evaluation of HI listeners and Louis Braida, Gerald Kidd, Bertrand Delgutte, Christophe Micheyl, Brian Moore, an anonymous reviewer and the associate editor, John Grose, for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

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