Previous studies have documented that speech with flattened or inverted fundamental frequency (F0) contours is less intelligible than speech with natural variations in F0. The purpose of this present study was to further investigate how F0 manipulations affect speech intelligibility in background noise. Speech recognition in noise was measured for sentences having the following F0 contours: unmodified, flattened at the median, natural but exaggerated, inverted, and sinusoidally frequency modulated at rates of 2.5 and 5.0 Hz, rates shown to make vowels more perceptually salient in background noise. Five talkers produced 180 stimulus sentences, with 30 unique sentences per F0 contour condition. Flattening or exaggerating the F0 contour reduced key word recognition performance by 13% relative to the naturally produced speech. Inverting or sinusoidally frequency modulating the F0 contour reduced performance by 23% relative to typically produced speech. These results support the notion that linguistically incorrect or misleading cues have a greater deleterious effect on speech understanding than linguistically neutral cues.

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