There is much interest in the idea that musicians perform better than non-musicians in understanding speech in background noise. Research in this area has often used energetic maskers, which have their effects primarily at the auditory periphery. However, masking interference can also occur at more central auditory levels, known as informational masking. This experiment extends existing research by using multiple maskers that vary in their informational content and similarity to speech, in order to examine differences in perception of masked speech between trained musicians (n = 25) and non-musicians (n = 25). Although musicians outperformed non-musicians on a measure of frequency discrimination, they showed no advantage in perceiving masked speech. Further analysis revealed that non-verbal IQ, rather than musicianship, significantly predicted speech reception thresholds in noise. The results strongly suggest that the contribution of general cognitive abilities needs to be taken into account in any investigations of individual variability for perceiving speech in noise.

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