Training to improve hearing speech in noise: Biological mechanisms

Judy H. Song, Erika Skoe, Karen Banai, Nina Kraus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated training-related improvements in listening in noise and the biological mechanisms mediating these improvements. Training-related malleability was examined using a program that incorporates cognitively based listening exercises to improve speech-in-noise perception. Before and after training, auditory brainstem responses to a speech syllable were recorded in quiet and multitalker noise from adults who ranged in their speech-in-noise perceptual ability. Controls did not undergo training but were tested at intervals equivalent to the trained subjects. Trained subjects exhibited significant improvements in speech-in-noise perception that were retained 6 months later. Subcortical responses in noise demonstrated training-related enhancements in the encoding of pitch-related cues (the fundamental frequency and the second harmonic), particularly for the time-varying portion of the syllable that is most vulnerable to perceptual disruption (the formant transition region). Subjects with the largest strength of pitch encoding at pretest showed the greatest perceptual improvement. Controls exhibited neither neurophysiological nor perceptual changes. We provide the first demonstration that short-term training can improve the neural representation of cues important for speech-in-noise perception. These results implicate and delineate biological mechanisms contributing to learning success, and they provide a conceptual advance to our understanding of the kind of training experiences that can influence sensory processing in adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1180-1190
Number of pages11
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012


  • LACE
  • Listening and Communication Enhancement
  • auditory training
  • brainstem encoding
  • fundamental frequency
  • pitch encoding
  • speech perception
  • speech-in-noise perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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