J Am Acad Audiol 2020; 31(06): 412-441
DOI: 10.3766/jaaa.19061
Research Article
American Academy of Audiology. All rights reserved. (2020) American Academy of Audiology

Effects of the Carrier Phrase on Word Recognition Performances by Younger and Older Listeners Using Two Stimulus Paradigms

Richard H. Wilson
1  Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Victoria A. Sanchez
2  Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
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Funding This work was supported by the Rehabilitation Research and Development Service, Department of Veterans Affairs through the Auditory and Vestibular Dysfunction Research Enhancement Award Program (REAP) at the VA Medical Center, Mountain Home, TN. Additional support was provided by the Arizona State University Foundation. Portions of this work, including participant compensation, were supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Summer Research Institute at the Florida Mental Health Institute.
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03. August 2020 (online)


Background In the 1950s, with monitored live voice testing, the vu meter time constant and the short durations and amplitude modulation characteristics of monosyllabic words necessitated the use of the carrier phrase amplitude to monitor (indirectly) the presentation level of the words. This practice continues with recorded materials. To relieve the carrier phrase of this function, first the influence that the carrier phrase has on word recognition performance needs clarification, which is the topic of this study.

Purpose Recordings of Northwestern University Auditory Test No. 6 by two female speakers were used to compare word recognition performances with and without the carrier phrases when the carrier phrase and test word were (1) in the same utterance stream with the words excised digitally from the carrier (VA-1 speaker) and (2) independent of one another (VA-2 speaker). The 50-msec segment of the vowel in the target word with the largest root mean square amplitude was used to equate the target word amplitudes.

Research Design A quasi-experimental, repeated measures design was used.

Study Sample Twenty-four young normal-hearing adults (YNH; M = 23.5 years; pure-tone average [PTA] = 1.3-dB HL) and 48 older hearing loss listeners (OHL; M = 71.4 years; PTA = 21.8-dB HL) participated in two, one-hour sessions.

Data Collection and Analyses Each listener had 16 listening conditions (2 speakers × 2 carrier phrase conditions × 4 presentation levels) with 100 randomized words, 50 different words by each speaker. Each word was presented 8 times (2 carrier phrase conditions × 4 presentation levels [YNH, 0- to 24-dB SL; OHL, 6- to 30-dB SL]). The 200 recorded words for each condition were randomized as 8, 25-word tracks. In both test sessions, one practice track was followed by 16 tracks alternated between speakers and randomized by blocks of the four conditions. Central tendency and repeated measures analyses of variance statistics were used.

Results With the VA-1 speaker, the overall mean recognition performances were 6.0% (YNH) and 8.3% (OHL) significantly better with the carrier phrase than without the carrier phrase. These differences were in part attributed to the distortion of some words caused by the excision of the words from the carrier phrases. With the VA-2 speaker, recognition performances on the with and without carrier phrase conditions by both listener groups were not significantly different, except for one condition (YNH listeners at 8-dB SL). The slopes of the mean functions were steeper for the YNH listeners (3.9%/dB to 4.8%/dB) than for the OHL listeners (2.4%/dB to 3.4%/dB) and were <1%/dB steeper for the VA-1 speaker than for the VA-2 speaker. Although the mean results were clear, the variability in performance differences between the two carrier phrase conditions for the individual participants and for the individual words was striking and was considered in detail.

Conclusion The current data indicate that word recognition performances with and without the carrier phrase (1) were different when the carrier phrase and target word were produced in the same utterance with poorer performances when the target words were excised from their respective carrier phrases (VA-1 speaker), and (2) were the same when the carrier phrase and target word were produced as independent utterances (VA-2 speaker).


Portions of this work were presented at the annual conference of the American Auditory Society in Scottsdale, AZ, March 1, 2019.

Supplementary Material