The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of sensorineural hearing loss on the ability to make use of fine temporal information and to evaluate the relation between this ability and the ability to recognize speech.
Fourteen observers with normal hearing and 12 observers with sensorineural hearing loss were tested on open-set word recognition and on psychophysical tasks thought to reflect use of fine-structure cues: the detection of 2 Hz frequency modulation (FM) and the discrimination of the rate of amplitude modulation (AM) and quasifrequency modulation (QFM).
The results showed relatively poor performance for observers with sensorineural hearing loss on both the speech recognition and psychoacoustical tasks. Of particular interest was the finding of significant correlations within the hearing-loss group between speech recognition performance and the psychoacoustical tasks based on frequency modulation, which are thought to reflect the quality of the coding of temporal fine structure.
These results suggest that sensorineural hearing loss may be associated with a reduced ability to use fine temporal information that is coded by neural phase-locking to stimulus fine-structure and that this may contribute to poor speech recognition performance and to poor performance on psychoacoustical tasks that depend on temporal fine structure.