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Year : 2010  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 49  |  Page : 270--282

Effects of noise and reverberation on speech perception and listening comprehension of children and adults in a classroom-like setting

1 Department of Psychology, University of Kaiserslautern, Germany
2 Hearing Center Oldenburg, Germany

Correspondence Address:
Maria Klatte
University of Kaiserslautern, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology II, Erwin-Schroedinger-Str. Geb. 57 67663 Kaiserslautern
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Source of Support: German Research Foundation (DFG KL 1305/2-1), Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1463-1741.70506

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The effects of classroom noise and background speech on speech perception, measured by word-to-picture matching, and listening comprehension, measured by execution of oral instructions, were assessed in first- and third-grade children and adults in a classroom-like setting. For speech perception, in addition to noise, reverberation time (RT) was varied by conducting the experiment in two virtual classrooms with mean RT = 0.47 versus RT = 1.1 s. Children were more impaired than adults by background sounds in both speech perception and listening comprehension. Classroom noise evoked a reliable disruption in children΄s speech perception even under conditions of short reverberation. RT had no effect on speech perception in silence, but evoked a severe increase in the impairments due to background sounds in all age groups. For listening comprehension, impairments due to background sounds were found in the children, stronger for first- than for third-graders, whereas adults were unaffected. Compared to classroom noise, background speech had a smaller effect on speech perception, but a stronger effect on listening comprehension, remaining significant when speech perception was controlled. This indicates that background speech affects higher-order cognitive processes involved in children΄s comprehension. Children΄s ratings of the sound-induced disturbance were low overall and uncorrelated to the actual disruption, indicating that the children did not consciously realize the detrimental effects. The present results confirm earlier findings on the substantial impact of noise and reverberation on children΄s speech perception, and extend these to classroom-like environmental settings and listening demands closely resembling those faced by children at school.


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