Speech segregation in rooms: monaural, binaural, and interacting effects of reverberation on target and interferer

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Lavandier, Mattieu N. ; Culling, John Francis (2008)

Speech reception thresholds were measured in virtual rooms to investigate the influence of reverberation on speech intelligibility for spatially separated targets and interferers. The measurements were realized under headphones, using target sentences and noise or two-voice interferers. The room simulation allowed variation of the absorption coefficient of the room surfaces independently for target and interferer. The direct-to-reverberant ratio and interaural coherence of sources were also varied independently by considering binaural and diotic listening. The main effect of reverberation on the interferer was binaural and mediated by the coherence, in agreement with binaural unmasking theories. It appeared at lower reverberation levels than the effect of reverberation on the target, which was mainly monaural and associated with the direct-to-reverberant ratio, and could be explained by the loss of amplitude modulation in the reverberant speech signals. This effect was slightly smaller when listening binaurally. Reverberation might also be responsible for a disruption of the mechanism by which the auditory system exploits fundamental frequency differences to segregate competing voices, and a disruption of the “listening in the gaps” associated with speech interferers. These disruptions may explain an interaction observed between the effects of reverberation on the targets and two-voice interferers.
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