Auditory and auditory-visual intelligibility of speech in fluctuating maskers for normal-hearing and hearing-impaired listeners

J Acoust Soc Am. 2009 May;125(5):3358-72. doi: 10.1121/1.3110132.


Speech intelligibility for audio-alone and audiovisual (AV) sentences was estimated as a function of signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) for a female target talker presented in a stationary noise, an interfering male talker, or a speech-modulated noise background, for eight hearing-impaired (HI) and five normal-hearing (NH) listeners. At the 50% keywords-correct performance level, HI listeners showed 7-12 dB less fluctuating-masker benefit (FMB) than NH listeners, consistent with previous results. Both groups showed significantly more FMB under AV than audio-alone conditions. When compared at the same stationary-noise SNR, FMB differences between listener groups and modalities were substantially smaller, suggesting that most of the FMB differences at the 50% performance level may reflect a SNR dependence of the FMB. Still, 1-5 dB of the FMB difference between listener groups remained, indicating a possible role for reduced audibility, limited spectral or temporal resolution, or an inability to use auditory source-segregation cues, in directly limiting the ability to listen in the dips of a fluctuating masker. A modified version of the extended speech-intelligibility index that predicts a larger FMB at less favorable SNRs accounted for most of the FMB differences between listener groups and modalities. Overall, these data suggest that HI listeners retain more of an ability to listen in the dips of a fluctuating masker than previously thought. Instead, the fluctuating-masker difficulties exhibited by HI listeners may derive from the reduced FMB associated with the more favorable SNRs they require to identify a reasonable proportion of the target speech.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Noise
  • Perceptual Masking*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Speech
  • Speech Intelligibility*
  • Task Performance and Analysis