Speech perception in noise with a harmonic complex excited vocoder

Tyler H. Churchill, Alan Kan, Matthew J. Goupell, Antje Ihlefeld, Ruth Y. Litovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


A cochlear implant (CI) presents band-pass-filtered acoustic envelope information by modulating current pulse train levels. Similarly, a vocoder presents envelope information by modulating an acoustic carrier. By studying how normal hearing (NH) listeners are able to understand degraded speech signals with a vocoder, the parameters that best simulate electric hearing and factors that might contribute to the NH-CI performance difference may be better understood. A vocoder with harmonic complex carriers (fundamental frequency, f0 = 100 Hz) was used to study the effect of carrier phase dispersion on speech envelopes and intelligibility. The starting phases of the harmonic components were randomly dispersed to varying degrees prior to carrier filtering and modulation. NH listeners were tested on recognition of a closed set of vocoded words in background noise. Two sets of synthesis filters simulated different amounts of current spread in CIs. Results showed that the speech vocoded with carriers whose starting phases were maximally dispersed was the most intelligible. Superior speech understanding may have been a result of the flattening of the dispersed-phase carrier's intrinsic temporal envelopes produced by the large number of interacting components in the high-frequency channels. Cross-correlogram analyses of auditory nerve model simulations confirmed that randomly dispersing the carrier's component starting phases resulted in better neural envelope representation. However, neural metrics extracted from these analyses were not found to accurately predict speech recognition scores for all vocoded speech conditions. It is possible that central speech understanding mechanisms are insensitive to the envelope-fine structure dichotomy exploited by vocoders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-278
Number of pages14
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


  • cochlear implant simulation
  • phase


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