Summer is a time for new discoveries!  This summer, we welcome students from the Northwestern Summer Research Opportunities Program and the Acoustical Society of America’s Summer Research Experience in Acoustics. In collaboration with Dr. Marisha Speights Atkins, this project examines perception of child talkers by older adults.  Despite how frequently older adults report difficulty hearing young children, and how important this is (grandchildren!), there are few studies in this area.  This project combines measures of speech recognition and acoustic analysis of child talkers from the Speech Exemplars and Evaluation Database (SEED).  Differences between adult and child talkers are often seen in the size of their vocal tract, with children having a shorter vocal tract and consequently a smaller vowel space (i.e., less distinction between formants of different vowels).  Change in formant frequencies with age corresponds to anatomic growth in the vocal tract.  Speech recognition for individual talkers will be related to measures of vowel space, which is known to influence individual talker intelligibility.  Results may provide a starting point for improved recognition, such as through customized hearing aid processing.

Summer undergraduate research

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Our research is conducted with and for individuals with hearing loss, who generously offer their time and experiences.

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We are grateful to have ongoing support for our work from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders.