Linguistics Colloquium – Alex Francis (Purdue University) “Psychophysiological indices of listening effort: Preliminary results and some speculation”

We are very excited to have Alex Francis visit the department next Monday!! Come to his talk!

Mon, January 27, 2014 • 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM • CLA 1.302E

Older adults and listeners with hearing impairment often find it exhausting to listen to speech in background noise, even when they are successful at it. An example of a common complaint is “I don’t like to go to restaurants anymore, it’s just to tiring to understand what people are saying.”  According to the effortfulness hypothesis, sub-clinical hearing deficits may increase cognitive demand for speech understanding, making listening in noise more effortful even when recognition performance remains. Even for typically hearing listeners, separating speech from background noise requires both segregating target speech from masking signals and selectively attending to the target while ignoring maskers. Both segregation and selection may demand cognitive resources, but it is not clear how these demands might interact with either age or hearing impairment. To begin to address this issue, it is necessary to measure listening effort independently from intelligibility, and under conditions that put relatively more emphasis on segregation vs. selection. Here I will report preliminary results from a study measuring listening effort behaviorally via traditional rating scales (NASA TLX), and psychophysiologically in terms of autonomic nervous system responses (pulse period and amplitude, and skin conductance). Listeners heard and repeated sentences under conditions in which performance is dominated by energetic masking (speech masked by broad-band noise), or informational masking (speech masked by two-talker babble), and also when listening to cognitively demanding speech without masking (synthetic speech).

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