Listener factors associated with individual susceptibility to reverberation

Paul N. Reinhart*, Pamela E. Souza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Reverberation is a source of acoustic degradation, present to varying extents in many everyday listening environments. The presence of reverberation decreases speech intelligibility, especially for listeners with hearing impairment. There is substantial variability in how susceptible individuals with hearing impairment are to the effects of reverberation (i.e., how intelligible reverberant speech is to a listener). Relatively little is known about the listener factors which drive that susceptibility. Purpose: To identify listener factors that are associated with an individual’s susceptibility to reverberation. Another purpose was to investigate how these listener factors are associated with reverberant susceptibility in relation to the amount of reverberation. The listener factors investigated were degree of hearing loss, age, temporal envelope sensitivity, and working memory capacity. Research Design: This study used a correlational design to investigate the association between different listener factors and speech intelligibility with varying amounts of reverberation. Study Sample: Thirty-three older adults with sensorineural hearing loss participated in the study. Data Collection and Analysis: Listener temporal envelope sensitivity was measured using a gap detection threshold task. Listener working memory capacity was measured using the Reading Span Test. Intelligibility of reverberant speech was measured using a set of low-context sentence materials presented at 70 dB SPL without individual frequency shaping. Sentences were presented at a range of realistic reverberation times, including no reverberation (0.0 sec), moderate reverberation (1.0 sec), and severe reverberation (4.0 sec). Stepwise linear regression analyses were conducted to model speech intelligibility using individual degree of hearing loss, age, temporal envelope sensitivity, and working memory capacity. A separate stepwise linear regression model was conducted to model listener speech intelligibility at each of the three levels of reverberation. Results: As the amount of reverberation increased, listener speech intelligibility decreased and variability in scores among individuals increased. Temporal envelope sensitivity was most closely associated with speech intelligibility in the no reverberation condition. Both listener age and degree of hearing loss were significantly associated with speech intelligibility in the moderate reverberation condition. Both listener working memory capacity and age were significantly associated with speech intelligibility in the severe reverberation condition. Conclusions: The results suggest that suprathreshold listener factors can be used to best predict speech intelligibility across a range of reverberant conditions. However, which listener factor(s) to consider when predicting a listener’s susceptibility to reverberation depends on the amount of reverberation in an environment. Clinicians may be able to use different listener factors to identify individuals who are more susceptible to reverberation and would be more likely to have difficulty communicating in reverberant environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-82
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Audiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Reverberation
  • Speech intelligibility
  • Temporal envelope sensitivity
  • Working memory capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Speech and Hearing


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