Development of a fast method for determining sensitivity to temporal fine structure.

Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, UK.
International journal of audiology (Impact Factor: 1.43). 01/2009; 48(4):161-71. DOI: 10.1080/14992020802475235
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Recent evidence suggests that sensitivity to the temporal fine structure (TFS) of sounds is adversely affected by cochlear hearing loss. This may partly explain the difficulties experienced by people with cochlear hearing loss in understanding speech when background sounds, especially fluctuating backgrounds, are present. We describe a test for assessing sensitivity to TFS. The test can be run using any PC with a sound card. The test involves discrimination of a harmonic complex tone (H), with a fundamental frequency F0, from a tone in which all harmonics are shifted upwards by the same amount in Hertz, resulting in an inharmonic tone (I). The phases of the components are selected randomly for every stimulus. Both tones have an envelope repetition rate equal to F0, but the tones differ in their TFS. To prevent discrimination based on spectral cues, all tones are passed through a fixed bandpass filter, usually centred at 11F0. A background noise is used to mask combination tones. The results show that, for normal-hearing subjects, learning effects are small, and the effect of the level of testing is also small. The test provides a simple, quick, and robust way to measure sensitivity to TFS.

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    ABSTRACT: The discrimination of bandpass-filtered harmonic (H) from inharmonic (I) tones (produced by shifting all components of the H tones upwards by a fixed amount in Hz) could be based on shifts in the pattern of ripples in the excitation pattern (EP) or on changes in the temporal fine structure evoked by the tones. The predictions of two computational EP models were compared with measured performance. One model used auditory filters with bandwidth values specified by Glasberg and Moore [(1990). Hear. Res. 47, 103-138] and one used filters that were twice as sharp. Stimulus variables were passband width, fundamental frequency, harmonic rank (N) of the lowest component within the passband, component phase (cosine or random), signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), and random perturbation in level of each component in the tones. While the EP models correctly predicted the lack of an effect of phase and some of the trends in the data as a function of fundamental frequency and N, neither model predicted the worsening in performance with increasing passband width or the lack of effect of SNR and level perturbation. It is concluded that discrimination of the H and I tones is not based solely on the use of EP cues.
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    ABSTRACT: Complex sound like speech can be characterized as the sum of number of amplitude-modulated signals representing the outputs of an array of narrow frequency bands. Temporal information at the output of each band can be separated into temporal fine structure (TFS), the rapid oscillations close to the center frequency and temporal envelope (ENV), slower amplitude modulations superimposed on the TFS. TFS information can be carried in the pattern of phase locking to the stimulus waveform, while ENV by the changes in firing rate over time. The relative importance of temporal ENV and TFS information in understanding speech has been studied using various sound-processing techniques. A number of studies demonstrated that ENV cues are associated with speech recognition in quiet, while TFS cues are possibly linked to melody/pitch perception and listening to speech in a competing background. However, there are evidences that recovered ENV from TFS as well as TFS itself may be partially responsible for speech recognition. Current technologies used in cochlear implants (CI) are not efficient in delivering the TFS cues, and new attempts have been made to deliver TFS information into sound-processing strategy in CI. We herein discuss the current updated findings of TFS with a literature review.
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    ABSTRACT: Recent psychophysical studies suggest that normal-hearing (NH) listeners can use acoustic temporal-fine-structure (TFS) cues for accurately discriminating shifts in the fundamental frequency (F0) of complex tones, or equal shifts in all component frequencies, even when the components are peripherally unresolved. The present study quantified both envelope (ENV) and TFS cues in single auditory-nerve (AN) fiber responses (henceforth referred to as neural ENV and TFS cues) from NH chinchillas in response to harmonic and inharmonic complex tones similar to those used in recent psychophysical studies. The lowest component in the tone complex (i.e., harmonic rank N) was systematically varied from 2 to 20 to produce various resolvability conditions in chinchillas (partially resolved to completely unresolved). Neural responses to different pairs of TEST (F0 or frequency shifted) and standard or reference (REF) stimuli were used to compute shuffled cross-correlograms, from which cross-correlation coefficients representing the degree of similarity between responses were derived separately for TFS and ENV. For a given F0 shift, the dissimilarity (TEST vs. REF) was greater for neural TFS than ENV. However, this difference was stimulus-based; the sensitivities of the neural TFS and ENV metrics were equivalent for equal absolute shifts of their relevant frequencies (center component and F0, respectively). For the F0-discrimination task, both ENV and TFS cues were available and could in principle be used for task performance. However, in contrast to human performance, neural TFS cues quantified with our cross-correlation coefficients were unaffected by phase randomization, suggesting that F0 discrimination for unresolved harmonics does not depend solely on TFS cues. For the frequency-shift (harmonic-versus-inharmonic) discrimination task, neural ENV cues were not available. Neural TFS cues were available and could in principle support performance in this task; however, in contrast to human-listeners' performance, these TFS cues showed no dependence on N. We conclude that while AN-fiber responses contain TFS-related cues, which can in principle be used to discriminate changes in F0 or equal shifts in component frequencies of peripherally unresolved harmonics, performance in these two psychophysical tasks appears to be limited by other factors (e.g., central processing noise).
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