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Niklas eRönnberg; Niklas eRönnberg; Mary eRudner; Mary eRudner; Thomas eLunner; Thomas eLunner; Thomas eLunner; Thomas eLunner; Stefan eStenfelt; Stefan eStenfelt (2014)
Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
Journal: Frontiers in Psychology
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: Cognition, working memory, Updating, listening effort, cognitive spare capacity, speech-in-noise, Psychology, BF1-990
Listening in noise is often perceived to be effortful. This is partly because cognitive resources are engaged in separating the target signal from background noise, leaving fewer resources for storage and processing of the content of the message in working memory. The Auditory Inference Span Test (AIST) is designed to assess listening effort by measuring the ability to maintain and process heard information. The aim of this study was to use AIST to investigate the effect of background noise types and signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) on listening effort, as a function of working memory capacity (WMC) and updating ability (UA). The AIST was administered in three types of background noise: steady-state speech-shaped noise, amplitude modulated speech-shaped noise, and unintelligible speech. Three SNRs targeting 90% speech intelligibility or better were used in each of the three noise types, giving nine different conditions. The reading span test assessed WMC, while UA was assessed with the letter memory test. Twenty young adults with normal hearing participated in the study. Results showed that AIST performance was not influenced by noise type at the same intelligibility level, but became worse with worse SNR when background noise was speech-like. Performance on AIST also decreased with increasing MLL. Correlations between AIST performance and the cognitive measurements suggested that WMC is of more importance for listening when SNRs are worse, while UA is of more importance for listening in easier SNRs. The results indicated that in young adults with normal hearing, the effort involved in listening in noise at high intelligibility levels is independent of the noise type. However, when noise is speech-like and intelligibility decreases, listening effort increases, probably due to extra demands on cognitive resources added by the informational masking created by the speech-fragments and vocal sounds in the background noise.

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