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Arnold School of Public Health


Projects in the Speech Perception Laboratory focus on understanding speech under adverse listening conditions. Specific focus is given to identifying the acoustic and linguistic properties of speech that are the most informative under different listening conditions. We are particularly interested in how aging and hearing impairment modifies the perceptual use of these informative speech properties. The goal of all of our projects is to improve the programming of assistive listening devices and design of training protocols.


Projects in Auditory Cognitive Science:

The USC Speech Perception Laboratory studies speech understanding difficulties under adverse listening conditions with specific clinical applications.  Current projects are as follows:

  1. The Identification of Speech from Partial Information: This project investigates how listeners process speech when only partial information is available due to competing or interrupting noise sources, such as a competing talker.
  2. Perceptual Processing of Speech Cues by Young and Older Listeners: This project investigates how age, hearing impairment, and the noisy environment influence a listener’s ability to process different speech cues.  Digital signal processing methods are used to investigate behavioral and psychophysical abilities.
    • Segmental Contributions to Intelligibility
      Consonants and vowels are general (and acoustically overlapping) categories of speech sounds that appear to contribute different information to understanding speech that varies with the linguistic context.
    • Acoustic Contributions to Intelligibility
      Research studies focus on identifying how listeners use temporal envelope and fine structure cues under different noisy listening conditions. Envelope cues are the main cues conveyed through a cochlear implant and can be sufficient for understanding speech in quiet. However, fine structure cues are believed to be essential for understanding speech in the presence of an interfering (or temporally interrupting) sound.
  3. Predicting Outcomes Following Cochlear Implantation and Aural Rehabilitation: This study investigates cognitive and auditory processing abilities of deaf clients who have received a neuroprosthesis in order to provide some hearing. The goal of this project is to identify variables that predict clinical outcomes. This project is in collaboration with the USC Cochlear Implant Program.
  4. Temporal Processing Abilities of Older Adults: This work investigates how older adults are able to process rapid acoustic events. Particular focus is given to how temporal processing abilities contribute to perceptually separating out competing talkers.

Research Funding

Current research for projects 1 and 2 are funded, in part, by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Maximizing speech recognition under adverse listening conditions (NIH/NIDCD R03-DC012506). Additional information regarding this grant may be found on the Arnold School of Public Health news page.

Additional research support has also been provided by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.