Using response times to speech-in-noise to measure the influence of noise reduction on listening effort
Single microphone noise reduction (NR) can lead to a subjective benefit even when there is no objective improvement in speech intelligibility. A possible explanation lies in a reduction of listening effort. In a previous study, we showed that response times (a proxy for listening effort) to a simple arithmetic task with spoken digits in noise were reduced (i.e., improved) by NR for normal-hearing (NH) listeners. In the current study we complemented the data set with data from twelve hearing-impaired (HI) listeners, the target group for NR. Subjects were asked to add the first and third digit of a digit triplet in noise. Response times to this task were measured, subjective listening effort was rated, and speech intelligibility of the stimuli was tested. Stimuli were presented at three signal-to-noise ratios (SNR; -5, 0, +5 dB) and in quiet. Stimuli were either processed with ideal or non-ideal NR, or unprocessed. In contrast to the previous results with NH listeners, a significant effect of NR on response times was for HI listeners restricted to conditions where speech intelligibility was also affected (-5 dB SNR). We cannot confirm a positive effect on response times to speech-in-noise after applying NR for HI listeners.
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