An algorithm that operates in real-time to enhance the salient features of speech is described and its efficacy is evaluated. The Contrast Enhancement (CE) algorithm implements dynamic compressive gain and lateral inhibitory sidebands across channels in a modified winner-take-all circuit, which together produce a form of suppression that sharpens the dynamic spectrum. Normal-hearing listeners identified spectrally smeared consonants (VCVs) and vowels (hVds) in quiet and in noise. Consonant and vowel identification, especially in noise, were improved by the processing. The amount of improvement did not depend on the degree of spectral smearing or talker characteristics. For consonants, when results were analyzed according to phonetic feature, the most consistent improvement was for place of articulation. This is encouraging for hearing aid applications because confusions between consonants differing in place are a persistent problem for listeners with sensorineural hearing loss.


This is the publisher pdf of Alexander JM, Jenison RL, Kluender KR (2011) Real-Time Contrast Enhancement to Improve Speech Recognition. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24630 and is available at: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024630.

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