Objective: To determine whether auditory event-related potentials (ERPs) to a phonemic fricative contrast (“s” and “sh”) show significant differences in listening conditions with or without a hearing aid and whether the aided condition significantly alters a listener’s ERP responses to the fricative speech sounds.
Design: The raw EEG data were collected using a 64-channel system from 10 healthy adult subjects with normal hearing. The fricative stimuli were digitally edited versions of naturally produced syllables, /sa/ and /∫a/. The evoked responses were derived in unaided and aided conditions by using an alternating block design with a passive listening task. Peak latencies and amplitudes of the P1-N1-P2 components and the N1’ and P2’' peaks of the acoustic change complex (ACC) were analyzed.
Results: The evoked N1 and N1’ responses to the fricative sounds significantly differed in the unaided condition. The fricative contrast also elicited distinct N1-P2 responses in the aided condition. While the aided condition increased and delayed the N1 and ACC responses, significant differences in the P1-N1-P2 and ACC components were still observed, which would support fricative contrast perception at the cortical level.
Conclusion: Despite significant alterations in the ERP responses by the aided condition, normal-hearing adult listeners showed distinct neural coding patterns for the voiceless fricative contrast, “s” and “sh,” with or without a hearing aid.