Normal-Hearing Listeners’ and Cochlear Implant Users’ Perception of Pitch Cues in Emotional Speech

Steven Gilbers, Christina Fuller, Dicky Gilbers, M. Broersma, Martijn Goudbeek, Rolien Free, Deniz Başkent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


In cochlear implants (CIs), acoustic speech cues, especially for pitch, are delivered in a degraded form. This study’s aim is to assess whether due to degraded pitch cues, normal-hearing listeners and CI users employ different perceptual strategies to recognize vocal emotions, and, if so, how these differ. Voice actors were recorded pronouncing a nonce word in four different emotions: anger, sadness, joy, and relief. These recordings’ pitch cues were phonetically analyzed. The recordings were used to test 20 normal-hearing listeners’ and 20 CI users’ emotion recognition. In congruence with previous studies, high-arousal emotions had a higher mean pitch, wider pitch range, and more dominant pitches than low-arousal emotions. Regarding pitch, speakers did not differentiate emotions based on valence but on arousal. Normal-hearing listeners outperformed CI users in emotion recognition, even when presented with CI simulated stimuli. However, only normal-hearing listeners recognized one particular actor’s emotions worse than the other actors’. The groups behaved differently when presented with similar input, showing that they had to employ differing strategies. Considering the respective speaker’s deviating pronunciation, it appears that for normal-hearing listeners, mean pitch is a more salient cue than pitch range, whereas CI users are biased toward pitch range cues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • acoustic emotion cues
  • emotion recognition
  • cue ranking
  • cochlear implant
  • force of articulation


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