To understand the mechanisms of speech perception in everyday listening environments, it is important to elucidate the relative contributions of different acoustic cues in transmitting phonetic content. Previous studies suggest that the envelope of speech in different frequency bands conveys most speech content, while the temporal fine structure (TFS) can aid in segregating target speech from background noise. However, the role of TFS in conveying phonetic content beyond what envelopes convey for intact speech in complex acoustic scenes is poorly understood. The present study addressed this question using online psychophysical experiments to measure the identification of consonants in multi-talker babble for intelligibility-matched intact and 64-channel envelope-vocoded stimuli. Consonant confusion patterns revealed that listeners had a greater tendency in the vocoded (versus intact) condition to be biased toward reporting that they heard an unvoiced consonant, despite envelope and place cues being largely preserved. This result was replicated when babble instances were varied across independent experiments, suggesting that TFS conveys voicing information beyond what is conveyed by envelopes for intact speech in babble. Given that multi-talker babble is a masker that is ubiquitous in everyday environments, this finding has implications for the design of assistive listening devices such as cochlear implants.

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