Purpose: There is evidence of an auditory-perceptual component of stuttering, and backward masking (BM) is a task to explore that role. Prior research reported poorer thresholds for BM tones in a group of children who persisted in stuttering compared to those for a group that did not persist. This study examined BM for adults who stutter for tones and for speech, which tests a phonetic aspect of hearing. Method: Eight persons who stutter (PWS) were closely matched with eight controls (PNS) in terms of phonological abilities, verbal span tasks, age, sex and non-verbal intelligence. These participants were examined for their ability to recognize vowel-consonant (VC) speech syllables and tones in BM paradigm with 0 ms and 300 ms masker to signal onset conditions. Results: PWS showed significantly poorer performance for speech syllable recognition in quiet and in conditions with masking noise. The pattern of speech errors was similar in both groups, but the PWS produced more errors. A significant condition by group interaction in backward masking for tones was attributed to higher masked thresholds in PWS than in PNS in the 0 ms delay condition for BM for tones. Conclusion: This was the first study to examine BM for speech in PWS. Results provide support for a small auditory-perceptual deficit for speech understanding in adults who stutter that was revealed in the absence of a lexical context. The speech results are explained in terms of possible indistinct phoneme boundaries in PWS and the effects of vowel context in speech recognition.
- Backward masking