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Perception of pitch by normally hearing and hearing-impaired people

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The perception of the pitch of complex tones is critical for following intonation patterns in speech, for separating the voices of multiple talkers, and for the enjoyment of music. Pitch can be extracted both from low harmonics, which are resolved in the normal auditory system, and from high, unresolved harmonics. Evidence will be presented that, for the latter, normally hearing subjects can extract information from the temporal fine structure of the waveform on the basilar membrane, and not just from the envelope, but this can only be done when harmonics in the range 8 to 14 are present; for higher harmonics, only envelope cues are used. Many people with moderate or severe cochlear hearing loss appear to have lost the ability to extract information from the temporal fine structure of sounds, possibly because of a mis-match between place and temporal information. Studies of pitch perception in people with dead regions in the cochlea confirm that such a mis-match leads to unclear pitches and a poor ability to detect changes in frequency.

This talk is part of the Craik Club series.

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