Journal of the Acoustical Society of America volume:143:2602-2610.
Listeners manage to acquire the sounds of their native language in spite of experiencing a range of
acoustic conditions during acquisition, including the presence of noise. Is the same true for nonnative
sound acquisition? This study investigates whether the presence of masking noise during
consonant training is a barrier to improvement, or, conversely, whether noise can be beneficial.
Spanish learners identified English consonants with and without noise, before and after undergoing
one of four extensive training regimes in which they were exposed to either consonants or vowels
in the presence or absence of speech-shaped noise. The consonant-trained cohorts showed substantially
larger gains than the vowel-trained groups, regardless of whether they were trained in noise
or quiet. A small matched-condition benefit was evident, with noise-training resulting in larger
improvements when testing in noise, and vice versa for training in quiet. No evidence for habituation
to noise was observed: the cohort trained on vowels in noise showed no transference to consonants
in noise. These findings demonstrate that noise exposure does not impede the acquisition of
second language sounds.