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  1. Louisa Kirchen
  2. Tobias Oberhoffner
  3. Orlando Guntinas-Lichius

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Description: Purpose: Using naturalistic synthesized speech, we determined the relative importance of acoustic cues in voice gender and age perception in Cochlear Implant (CI) users. Method: We investigated 28 CI users’ abilities to utilize fundamental frequency (F0) and timbre in perceiving voice gender (Experiment 1) and vocal age (Experiment 2). Parameter-specific voice morphing was used to selectively control acoustic cues (F0; Time; Timbre, i.e., formant frequencies, spectral level information, and aperiodicity as defined in TANDEM-STRAIGHT) in voice stimuli. Individual differences in CI users’ performance were quantified via deviations from mean performance of 19 normal hearing listeners (NH). Results: CI users’ gender perception seemed exclusively based on F0, whereas NH listeners efficiently used timbre. For age perception, timbre was more informative than F0 for both groups, with minor contributions of temporal cues. While a few CI users performed comparable to NHs overall, others were at chance. Separate analyses confirmed that even high performing CI users classified gender almost exclusively based on F0. While high performers could discriminate age in male and female voices, low performers were close to chance overall, but used F0 as misleading cue to age (classifying female voices as young and male voices as old). Satisfaction with CI generally correlated with performance in age perception. Conclusions: We confirmed that CI users´ gender classification is mainly based on F0. However, high performers could make reasonable usage of timbre cues in age perception. Overall, parameter-specific morphing can serve to objectively assess individual profiles of CI users’ abilities to perceive nonverbal social-communicative vocal signals.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International


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