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Speech Perception & Acoustics Laboratory

We explore how children and non-native speakers use contextual information to understand speech in noisy environments and what differences exist between them and adult native speakers.

  • Overview

    The general goal of the research in this laboratory is to explore how language experience (adults vs. children, persons with and without hearing loss, native vs. non-native speakers, bilinguals, etc.) interacts with speech perception in various listening conditions. A study may involve acoustic analyses of speech samples, listening experiments or auditory training.


    The laboratory consists of three rooms that are furnished to test a wide age range of research participants.

    • Room one is a large sound-attenuating booth equipped with a sound field system, a touch-screen monitor and a 64-channel EEG system.
    • Room two is a control room equipped with an audiometer; a PC with a Lynx Two-B sound card for stimulus recording, processing and presentation; a PC for stimulus processing and data analysis through the audiometer; and three computers, two Macintosh and a PC, for EEG experiments and data analysis.
    • Room three has a pediatric table and chairs; books, games and a chalkboard to provide entertainment for young research subjects during testing breaks. There also are a desk and a computer for general testing and data analysis.
  • Staff

    Kanae Nishi, Ph.D. directs research in this laboratory. BTNRH collaborators include Stephen Neely, Ph.D. and Dawna Lewis, Ph.D..

  • Summary of Research Program

    For Clinicians and Scientists

    The research projects in this laboratory are divided into two categories:

    1. Speech perception projects, and
    2. Speech acoustics projects.

    Speech perception projects typically explore how various variables (linguistic experience, hearing status, listening conditions, speech materials, etc.) relate to daily speech communication. Speech acoustics projects typically explore the physical characteristics of speech samples recorded by various speakers in relation to speaker characteristics (native/non-native, with and without hearing loss, adult/child, etc.).

    The current emphasis is on the influence of contextual information on speech perception in noise by child and adult native speakers of English and adult non-native speakers of English. Speech communication in daily life usually occurs in the presence of background noise (other speakers, environmental noises, reverberation, etc.). Listeners compensate for the distortion in the speech signal by relying on the contextual information (topic knowledge, linguistic knowledge, etc.). The results will provide important information regarding how linguistic experience and hearing status interact with each other and how they contribute to speech communication in daily life.

    For Families

    School, playgrounds, restaurants, gym, stores, streets… we live in a noisy world. When you cannot hear every word someone says to you, you try to fill in the missing parts using your best guess. You may rely on the topic knowledge, grammar of the sentence, general sounding of the word, or meaning of the sentence or phrase. If you are a young child and still learning language, if you have hearing loss or if you do not speak English very well, you may have less ability to use context. The current project in this laboratory explores how children and non-native speakers use contextual information to understand speech in noisy environments and what differences exist between ​them and adult native speakers.

  • Publications

    The link below ​opens a new window in PubMed1, in which the laboratory director’s biomedical publications are listed.