The performance on a conversation-following task by 24 hearing-impaired persons was compared with that of 24 matched controls with normal hearing in the presence of three background noises: (a) speech-spectrum random noise, (b) a male voice, and (c) the male voice played in reverse. The subjects' task was to readjust the sound level of a female voice (signal), every time the signal voice was attenuated, to the subjective level at which it was just possible to understand what was being said. To assess the benefit of lipreading, half of the material was presented audiovisually and half auditorily only. It was predicted that background speech would have a greater masking effect than reversed speech, which would in turn have a lesser masking effect than random noise. It was predicted that hearing-impaired subjects would perform more poorly than the normal-hearing controls in a background of speech. The influence of lipreading was expected to be constant across groups and conditions. The results showed that the hearing-impaired subjects were equally affected by the three background noises and that normal-hearing persons were less affected by the background speech than by noise. The performance of the normal-hearing persons was superior to that of the hearing-impaired subjects. The prediction about lipreading was confirmed. The results were explained in terms of the reduced temporal resolution by the hearing-impaired subjects.