Spectral characteristics of speech at the ear: Implications for amplification in children

Andrea L. Pittman, Patricia G. Stelmachowicz, Dawna E. Lewis, Brenda M. Hoover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


This study examined the long- and short-term spectral characteristics of speech simultaneously recorded at the ear and at a reference microphone position (30 cm at 0° azimuth). Twenty adults and 26 children (2-4 years of age) with normal hearing were asked to produce 9 short sentences in a quiet environment. Long-term average speech spectra (LTASS) were calculated for the concatenated sentences, and short-term spectra were calculated for selected phonemes within the sentences (/m/, /n/, /s/, /∫/, /f/, /a/, /u/, and /i/). Relative to the reference microphone position, the LTASS at the ear showed higher amplitudes for frequencies below 1 kHz and lower amplitudes for frequencies above 2 kHz for both groups. At both microphone positions, the short-term spectra of the children's phonemes revealed reduced amplitudes for /s/ and /∫/ and for vowel energy above 2 kHz relative to the adults' phonemes. The results of this study suggest that, for listeners with hearing loss (a) the talker's own voice through a hearing instrument would contain lower overall energy at frequencies above 2 kHz relative to speech originating in front of the talker, (b) a child's own speech would contain even lower energy above 2 kHz because of adult-child differences in overall amplitude, and (c) frequency regions important to normal speech development (e.g., high-frequency energy in the phonemes /s/ and /∫/) may not be amplified sufficiently by many hearing instruments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-657
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Amplification
  • Children
  • Hearing loss
  • Speech

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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