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Moderate cochlear hearing loss leads to a reduced ability to use temporal fine structure information.

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The ability of normally hearing and hearing-impaired subjects to use temporal fine structure information in complex tones was measured. Subjects were required to discriminate a harmonic complex tone from a tone in which all components were shifted upwards by the same amount in Hz, in a three-alternative, forced-choice task. The tones either contained five equal-amplitude components (non-shaped stimuli) or contained many components, but were passed through a fixed bandpass filter to reduce excitation pattern changes (shaped stimuli). Components were centered at nominal harmonic numbers (N) 7, 11, and 18. For the shaped stimuli, hearing-impaired subjects performed much more poorly than normally hearing subjects, with most of the former scoring no better than chance when N=11 or 18, suggesting that they could not access the temporal fine structure information. Performance for the hearing-impaired subjects was significantly improved for the non-shaped stimuli, presumably because they could benefit from spectral cues. It is proposed that normal-hearing subjects can use temporal fine structure information provided the spacing between fine structure peaks is not too small relative to the envelope period, but subjects with moderate cochlear hearing loss make little use of temporal fine structure information for unresolved components.

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