Listening to speech in a background of other talkers: Effects of talker number and noise vocoding

Stuart Rosen*, Pamela Souza, Caroline Ekelund, Arooj A. Majeed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Some of the most common interfering background sounds a listener experiences are the sounds of other talkers. In Experiment 1, recognition for natural Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) sentences was measured in normal-hearing adults at two fixed signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) in 16 backgrounds with the same long-term spectrum: unprocessed speech babble (1, 2, 4, 8, and 16 talkers), noise-vocoded versions of the babbles (12 channels), noise modulated with the wide-band envelope of the speech babbles, and unmodulated noise. All talkers were adult males. For a given number of talkers, natural speech was always the most effective masker. The greatest changes in performance occurred as the number of talkers in the maskers increased from 1 to 2 or 4, with small changes thereafter. In Experiment 2, the same targets and maskers (1, 2, and 16 talkers) were used to measure speech reception thresholds (SRTs) adaptively. Periodicity in the target was also manipulated by noise-vocoding, which led to considerably higher SRTs. The greatest masking effect always occurred for the masker type most similar to the target, while the effects of the number of talkers were generally small. Implications are drawn with reference to glimpsing, informational vs energetic masking, overall SNR, and aspects of periodicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2431-2443
Number of pages13
Journaljournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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