Effects of the prominence of first harmonic on the perception of breathiness and vowel identity.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Audiology
Title:EFFECTS OF THE PROMINENCE OF FIRST HARMONIC ON THE PERCEPTION OF BREATHINESS AND VOWEL IDENTITY
Authors: Emily Lin, Samuel Sloane,and Donal Sinex
Background: Human communication relies on adequate speech intelligibility to enable the comprehension of verbal messages. Dysphonia (i.e., aberrant voice) may not only result in distraction during communication but also interfere with speech intelligibility leading to a communication barrier. One voice quality commonly found in dysphonia is breathiness, which is related to the presence of excessive airflow during phonation due to incomplete glottal closure. Breathiness has been associated with the prominence of the first harmonic (H1) in the acoustic analysis of voice.
Objectives: This study aimed to determine whether excessiveness in the first harmonic (H1) dominance, which has been associated with breathy voice, may result in the perception of breathiness and compromise vowel intelligibility.
Methods: Participants included 10 female and 10 male normal-hearing adults, aged between 19 to 40 years. Participant’s tasks included a “breathiness rating” and a “vowel identification” task. For the “breathiness rating” task, a direct magnitude method was employed for the participant to rate a 500-ms long vowel (/i/ and /a/) segmented from sustained vowel phonation. For the “vowel identification” task, the vowel stimuli were segmented out from running speech (“Rainbow passage”) and the participants were asked to listen to one vowel stimulus (/i/, /a/, or /o/; duration: 60 ms) at a time and indicate which vowel (i.e., /i/, /e/, /a/, /o/, or /u/) they perceived the stimulus to be. The vowel stimuli included processed and unprocessed voice recordings of individuals with and without voice disorders. Voices showing the lowest, median, and highest amplitude differences between the first two harmonics (H1-H2) were chosen from a voice database for female and male voices respectively. The 18 selected vowel signals (3 vowels X 3 H1-H2 levels X 2 speaker genders) were processed through 12 signal manipulation conditions. The 12 signal conditions involved increasing or decreasing the H1 amplitude of the original signals in six 2-dB interval steps in both directions.
Results: For the “breathiness rating” task, the five-way (3 vowels X 2 speaker genders X 3 H1-H2 levels X 13 signal conditions X 2 listener genders) Mixed Model Analysis of variance (ANOVA) conducted on the breathiness scores for normal speakers and voice patients separately showed significant findings for various main and interaction effects, such as a significant speaker gender by signal condition by vowel interaction effect on the perception of breathiness [F(12, 96) = 1.95, p = 0.038] for normal voice. An increase of H1-H2 through signal manipulation led to an increase of perceived breathiness only when performed on the vowel /i/ produced by female normal speakers. As for the “vowel identification” task, a relationship between H1-H2 increment and vowel intelligibility was found but the relationship was affected by vowel type, speaker gender, and H1-H2 level. With all vowel types, speaker genders, and H1-H2 levels combined, a significant signal condition effect on the number of incorrect vowel identification was found (2 = 188.585, df = 10, p < 0.001). Generally, it appeared that an increase of H1-H2 would worsen the identification of /i/ but enhance that of /o/.
Conclusion: The relationship between H1 dominance and perceived breathiness was non-linear. Factors found to disrupt the linear relationship included speaker gender, vowel type, and the extent of H1 dominance. In addition, there was evidence that acoustic manipulation of the H1 amplitude would affect vowel intelligibility and the relationship between vowel intelligibility and H1-H2 values also vary by speaker genders and vowel types.