Re: Why Can Some Blind People Process Speech Far Faster Than Sighted Persons.


I haven't checked the other samples, but on seeing your message, I checked the third one.  I can understand a lot of it when wearing headphones and perhaps less when close to the small speaker in my laptop.

It isn't particularly easy to understand and the strain, I think might be fatiguing and I suspect would lower my comprehension.  It may be that those who lose their sight during the age window the article discusses would understand speech more easily at that speed but since I can understand a lot of it, it raises the question about the accuracy of the article's information, which comes from the study in question.

While I might not have been able to understand it much or hardly at all if I hadn't listened to speech at about 350 words per minute for years, my experience raises the question of how much people can understand fast speech if they accustom themselves to do so, the age window in question or not.

The magazine article doesn't, among other defects, discuss whether those outside of the window who were tested routinely listen to rapid speech or not.  We don't know how those who fall outside of the window would do depending on if and how regularly they have listened to rapid speech and for how long.


On 9/21/2022 10:58 AM, Donna wrote:
I can understand the 3rd voice speech rate. It is political. Something about killings in Afghanistan in 2007 by Blackwater guards who killed 17 people & who were facing charges.


I can't believe anyone could understand that.

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Mohamed
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2022 11:49 PM
Subject: Re: [TechTalk] Why Can Some Blind People Process Speech Far Faster Than Sighted Persons.

The links to the samples in the blog post are broken. Here are updated ones.

On 9/20/2022 11:44 PM, Mohamed via wrote:

This was a German study, so perhaps the samples are in German? This sounds a bit like the German version of Eloquence, but it was possibly sped up artificially. Here's a blog post that has more samples.

On 9/20/2022 8:08 AM, Gene wrote:

Here is a link to download the sample, significantly slowed down by me.
I hope there are people on the list who can understand speech at very fast speeds. I am skeptical that this sample is English speech. When I heard it, it didn't sound like English. I slowed it down, using the speech compression and perhaps I should say, decompression in Windows Media Player to perhaps 70 or even 100 percent slower.
Media Player doesn't give speed information. You hear numbers as you move in the speed up and slow down setting, but they don't correspond with speech rate.
Even significantly slowed down, the speech doesn't sound like English.
Slowed as much as I did, I would think the speech would at least sound like English, whether it can be understood or not.
On 9/20/2022 12:24 AM, Donna wrote:

My question; Can anyone here understand what is said on the sample recording provided in the link?? It is the standard JAWS voice, so it is difficult for me to understand. I use more natural sounding voices with JAWS. My voiceover speed is set to 85.


I was reading this article and thought some of you might want to read it as well. There is a link to the original article below. I find it to be quite interesting.

Why Can Some Blind People Process Speech Far Faster Than Sighted Persons?

Functional brain imaging has revealed that some blind people's brains rewire themselves, giving them extraordinary auditory comprehension

By R. Douglas Fields on December 13, 2010

SAN DIEGO—Books fly from the shelf as Superman fans the pages in a blur devouring the information at blinding speed. Superhuman mental powers, including his extraordinary sense of hearing and blazing speed-reading, are as vital to Superman as his bullet-beating velocity and steel-bending strength. But it seems Superman isn't the only being with the gift of quickness. Neuroscientists reported in November at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting in San Diego that they have found an interesting group of real individuals with such superhuman mental abilities—blind people. Moreover, functional brain imaging now reveals how they achieve their extraordinary cerebral feats.

A popular notion is that blind people sharpen their remaining senses to compensate for lost vision. Blind musicians, such as Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, may excel in music because of their highly developed sense of hearing. Researchers from the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research at the University of Tübingen in Germany have found scientific support for this belief. Blind people can easily comprehend speech that is sped up far beyond the maximum rate that sighted people can't understand. When we speak rapidly we are verbalizing at about six syllables per second. That hyperactive radio announcer spewing fine print at the end of a commercial jabbers at 10 syllables per second, the absolute limit of comprehension for sighted people. Blind people, however, can comprehend speech sped up to 25 syllables per second. Human beings cannot talk this fast. The scientists had to use a computerized synthesizer to generate speech at this speed. "It sounds like noise," Ingo Hertrich, one of the scientists involved in the research told me. "I can't understand anything…maybe it sounds like some strange foreign language spoken very rapidly." (To hear what speech at 16 syllables per second sounds like, listen to a sample recording the scientists used in their experiments.)

Hertrich and his colleagues Hermann Ackermann and Susanne Dietrich wanted to find out what was going on inside the brains of blind people that gives them this "superpower" to understand speech at ultrafast rates. Examining brain regions activated by blind and sighted people while they listened to ultrafast speech and laid inside a (functional magnetic imaging, or MRI) brain scanner revealed that in blind people the part of the cerebral cortex that normally responds to vision was responding to speech.

No wonder blind people seem to have superhuman powers of high-speed listening comprehension. Normally, this brain region, situated at the back of the skull and called V1, only responds to light. Vision is such an important sense for humans that a huge portion of the brain is devoted to visual processing—far more gray matter than is dedicated to any other sense. In blind people all this brain power would go to waste, but somehow an unsighted person's brain rewires itself to connect auditory regions of the brain to the visual cortex.

Ackermann explained that the age at which a person loses sight is likely to be critical in rewiring brain regions controlling hearing to the region that normally processes vision. In people who are born blind the visual cortex is completely unresponsive to any auditory or visual stimulation. This region of the brain becomes functionally disconnected because visual input is necessary early in life to wire up visual brain circuitry properly. Younger people who lose sight after these connections formed, however, are able to reroute them to process auditory information after becoming blind. On the other hand, people who lose sight late in life are also less able to rewire their brains, because the critical period during which visual experience can influence this process is limited to earlier years in life. (All the subjects in this study had lost their sight between two and 15 years of age.)

But how do brain regions connected to the ears get rewired to brain regions that are normally connected to the eyes? The fact is that most of our senses have some interacting circuitry between them, which is called cross modality. There are some connections between the brain's auditory and visual regions, because the two senses must work together. Seeing a person's lips move helps comprehension of speech. We also need to orient our visual and auditory attention to the same events and to the same place in space, so there is an exchange of information between the auditory and visual cortices. Nerves from muscles that control our eye movements, for example, connect to the brain's hearing centers as well. These connections between visual and auditory regions of the brain become strengthened after losing sight. Also, some regions of cerebral cortex that border visual and auditory cortices—the left fusiform gyrus, for example—expand territory in blind people to make use of the idle circuitry in visual cortex.

Interestingly, the researchers found that blind people only use the right visual cortex for understanding ultrafast speech. Ackermann suspects that this may be because the right brain is specialized for processing low-frequency information, which is typical of speech, but this theory is still unproved. What blind people might use the left visual cortex for is something the group is investigating and hopes to report at next year's meeting.

The main interest of the researchers is in brain stroke. By investigating how the blind brain rewires itself to compensate for lost function, the researchers hope to discover new information that can be helpful to patients recovering from stroke. But Ackermann also stresses that an important outcome of this research is the help it can provide the blind. Whereas it is always better to be sighted than not, people who have lost vision do have certain extraordinary abilities that can give them advantages over sighted people. He finds that blind people are able to turn up the rate of text-to-speech converting computer programs to read three books in the time it would take a sighted person to read one. This extraordinary ability will benefit blind people in processing large amounts of written information in textbooks for study at school, and perhaps open new job opportunities to exploit their high-speed reading skills for translation or other auditory comprehension at blazing speeds that to Lois Lane and the rest of us mere mortals sounds like babble.

Rights & Permissions


R. Douglas Fields is a senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health’s Section on Nervous System Development and Plasticity. He is author of Electric Brain: How the New Science of Brainwaves Reads Minds, Tells Us How We Learn, and Helps Us Change for the Better (BenBella Books, 2020). Credit: Nick Higgins

The Original Article can be found at,this%20theory%20is%20still%20unproved.


Join to automatically receive all group messages.