Speech produced in noise: Relationship between listening difficulty and acoustic and durational parameters

Simone Graetzer, Pasquale Bottalico, Eric J. Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Conversational speech produced in noise can be characterised by increases in intelligibility relative to such speech produced in quiet. Listening difficulty (LD) is a metric that can be used to evaluate speech transmission performance more sensitively than intelligibility scores in situations in which performance is likely to be high. The objectives of the present study were to evaluate the LD of speech produced in different noise and style conditions, to evaluate the spectral and durational speech modifications associated with these conditions, and to determine whether any of the spectral and durational parameters predicted LD. Nineteen subjects were instructed to speak at normal and loud volumes in the presence of background noise at 40.5 dB(A) and babble noise at 61 dB(A). The speech signals were amplitude-normalised, combined with pink noise to obtain a signal-to-noise ratio of -6 dB, and presented to twenty raters who judged their LD. Vowel duration, fundamental frequency and the proportion of the spectral energy in high vs low frequencies increased with the noise level within both styles. LD was lowest when the speech was produced in the presence of high level noise and at a loud volume, indicating improved intelligibility. Spectrum balance was observed to predict LD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)974-983
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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