Domain-specific hearing-in-noise performance is associated with absolute pitch proficiency

I. Hui Hsieh, Hung Chen Tseng, Jia Wei Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Recent evidence suggests that musicians may have an advantage over non-musicians in perceiving speech against noisy backgrounds. Previously, musicians have been compared as a homogenous group, despite demonstrated heterogeneity, which may contribute to discrepancies between studies. Here, we investigated whether “quasi”-absolute pitch (AP) proficiency, viewed as a general trait that varies across a spectrum, accounts for the musician advantage in hearing-in-noise (HIN) performance, irrespective of whether the streams are speech or musical sounds. A cohort of 12 non-musicians and 42 trained musicians stratified into high, medium, or low AP proficiency identified speech or melody targets masked in noise (speech-shaped, multi-talker, and multi-music) under four signal-to-noise ratios (0, − 3, − 6, and − 9 dB). Cognitive abilities associated with HIN benefits, including auditory working memory and use of visuo-spatial cues, were assessed. AP proficiency was verified against pitch adjustment and relative pitch tasks. We found a domain-specific effect on HIN perception: quasi-AP abilities were related to improved perception of melody but not speech targets in noise. The quasi-AP advantage extended to tonal working memory and the use of spatial cues, but only during melodic stream segregation. Overall, the results do not support the putative musician advantage in speech-in-noise perception, but suggest a quasi-AP advantage in perceiving music under noisy environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16344
JournalScientific Reports
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

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