To assess whether young hearing-impaired listeners are as sensitive as normal-hearing children to the cues for stop consonant voicing, we presented stimuli from along VOT continua to young normal-hearing listeners and to listeners with mild, moderate, severe, and profound hearing impairments. The response measures were the location of the phonetic boundaries, the change in boundaries with changes in place of articulation, and response variability. The listeners with normal hearing sensitivity and those with mild and moderate hearing impairments did not differ in performance on any response measure. The listeners with severe impairments did not show the expected change in VOT boundary with changes in place of articulation. Moreover, stimulus uncertainty (i.e., the number of possible choices in the response set) affected their response variability. One listener with profound impairment was able to process the cues for voicing in a normal fashion under conditions of minimum stimulus uncertainty. We infer from these results that the cochlear damage which underlies mild and moderate hearing impairment does not significantly alter the auditory representation of VOT. However, the cochlear damage underlying severe impairment, possibly interacting with high signal presentation levels, does alter the auditory representation of VOT.
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