Communication Sciences and Disorders Publications


How Long Does It Take for a Voice to Become Familiar? Speech Intelligibility and Voice Recognition Are Differentially Sensitive to Voice Training

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Psychological Science

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When people listen to speech in noisy places, they can understand more words spoken by someone familiar, such as a friend or partner, than someone unfamiliar. Yet we know little about how voice familiarity develops over time. We exposed participants (N = 50) to three voices for different lengths of time (speaking 88, 166, or 478 sentences during familiarization and training). These previously heard voices were recognizable and more intelligible when presented with a competing talker than novel voices—even the voice previously heard for the shortest duration. However, recognition and intelligibility improved at different rates with longer exposures. Whereas recognition was similar for all previously heard voices, intelligibility was best for the voice that had been heard most extensively. The speech-intelligibility benefit for the most extensively heard voice (10%–15%) is as large as that reported for voices that are naturally very familiar (friends and spouses)—demonstrating that the intelligibility of a voice can be improved substantially after only an hour of training.