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Current Funding

The work carried out in the Speech Perception Laboratory is currently funded by NIH grant R01DC012315, “Gender Differences and Speech Accommodations in Occupational Settings,” to Dr. Eric J. Hunter of Michigan State University. Dr. Ferguson is a co-investigator on this grant and directs the subcontract to the University of Utah. Work on this grant is also being carried out at Michigan State University under the direction of Dr. Hunter, at the National Center for Voice and Speech under the direction of Dr. Lynn Maxfield, and at Brigham Young University under the direction of Dr. Timothy Leishman.

Latest studies

Simulated Environments

When sound distortions (i.e. noise and reverberation) are present, individuals modify how they speak based on their environment. These modifications may lead to increased vocal strain and effort, and could be an underlying cause of voice disorders in individuals working in such settings. Noisy classrooms and call centers or reverberant lecture halls may have an impact on those who rely on using their voice in these situations daily to make a living. In this study we ask individuals to read materials and to describe a picture in several simulated environments that approximate the aforementioned conditions. We aim to identify populations who may be at a higher risk of developing voice disorders through analyzing the resulting data.

Effect of Emotion as a Target and Distracting Stimulus

Shae's dissertation work will examine the effect of emotion in speech as a distracting background stimulus on word recognition, informational masking, and emotion identification.  Implications of auditory attention and emotional dimensions (i.e. arousal and valence) will be examined.  This work involves the creation of a new database - the Morgan Emotional Speech Set (MESS), which will be used to investigate the aforementioned topics of interest.  He aims to complete his dissertation work by the Summer of 2018.

Perceived Anger in Clear Speech: Effect of Aging and Hearing Loss

Clear speech (speech directed toward an individual with hearing loss) has been judged to sound angry more often ompared to conversational speech.  This finding was present for young adult listeners with normal hearing as well as for older, adult listeners with hearing loss.  However, older adult listeners with hearing loss generally reported hearing anger less often than the young adult listeners did.  A prior study determined that simulating a hearing loss in younger adult listeners did not account for this decrease i perceived anger.  A final study is being carried out using older adults with normal hearing to determine whether the decrease in perceived anger in clear and conversational speech can be attributed to aging rather than to aspects of hearing loss.

Talker Differences in Clear Speech

This study investigates talker differences in the  intelligibility of words spoken in a clear and conversational manner.  The amount of clear speech benefit for word identification will be obtained for 41 talkers and we will investigate what talkers with a large benefit do differently from talkers with a small (or no) benefit to determine how to best counsel communiction partners on how they should speak to individuals with hearing loss. Comparisons with vowel intelligibility will be made to determine any link (or lack thereof) between an individual's vowel intelligibility and their word intelligibility scores in the two speaking styles.

Contact Us

Behavioral Science Building

Phone: 801-585-0036
Email: speechperception@utah.edu

Mailing Address
Speech Acoustics and Perception Laboratory
390 South 1530 East
Room 1201
Salt Lake City, UT 84112