Hearing speech in music
The masking effect of a piano composition, played at different speeds and in different octaves, on speech-perception thresholds was investigated in 15 normal-hearing and 14 moderately-hearing-impaired subjects. Running speech (just follow conversation, JFC) testing and use of hearing aids increased the everyday validity of the findings. A comparison was made with standard audiometric noises [International Collegium of Rehabilitative Audiology (ICRA) noise and speech spectrum-filtered noise (SPN)]. All masking sounds, music or noise, were presented at the same equivalent sound level (50 dBA). The results showed a significant effect of piano performance speed and octave (P<.01). Low octave and fast tempo had the largest effect; and high octave and slow tempo, the smallest. Music had a lower masking effect than did ICRA noise with two or six speakers at normal vocal effort (P<.01) and SPN (P<.05). Subjects with hearing loss had higher masked thresholds than the normal-hearing subjects (P<.01), but there were smaller differences between masking conditions (P<.01). It is pointed out that music offers an interesting opportunity for studying masking under realistic conditions, where spectral and temporal features can be varied independently. The results have implications for composing music with vocal parts, designing acoustic environments and creating a balance between speech perception and privacy in social settings.
from Noise & Health