Channel vocoders using either tone or band-limited noise carriers have been used in experiments to simulate cochlear implant processing in normal-hearing listeners. Previous results from these experiments have suggested that the two vocoder types produce speech of nearly equal intelligibility in quiet conditions. The purpose of this study was to further compare the performance of tone and noise-band vocoders in both quiet and noisy listening conditions. In each of four experiments, normal-hearing subjects were better able to identify tone-vocoded sentences and vowel-consonant-vowel syllables than noise-vocoded sentences and syllables, both in quiet and in the presence of either speech-spectrum noise or two-talker babble. An analysis of consonant confusions for listening in both quiet and speech-spectrum noise revealed significantly different error patterns that were related to each vocoder's ability to produce tone or noise output that accurately reflected the consonant's manner of articulation. Subject experience was also shown to influence intelligibility. Simulations using a computational model of modulation detection suggest that the noise vocoder's disadvantage is in part due to the intrinsic temporal fluctuations of its carriers, which can interfere with temporal fluctuations that convey speech recognition cues.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/karen_helfer/7/