Using spatial release from masking to estimate the magnitude of the familiar-voice intelligibility benefit
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
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© 2019 Acoustical Society of America. The ability to segregate simultaneous speech streams is crucial for successful communication. Recent studies have demonstrated that participants can report 10%-20% more words spoken by naturally familiar (e.g., friends or spouses) than unfamiliar talkers in two-voice mixtures. This benefit is commensurate with one of the largest benefits to speech intelligibility currently known - that which is gained by spatially separating two talkers. However, because of differences in the methods of these previous studies, the relative benefits of spatial separation and voice familiarity are unclear. Here, the familiar-voice benefit and spatial release from masking are directly compared, and it is examined if and how these two cues interact with one another. Talkers were recorded while speaking sentences from a published closed-set "matrix" task, and then listeners were presented with three different sentences played simultaneously. Each target sentence was played at 0° azimuth, and two masker sentences were symmetrically separated about the target. On average, participants reported 10%-30% more words correctly when the target sentence was spoken in a familiar than unfamiliar voice (collapsed over spatial separation conditions); it was found that participants gain a similar benefit from a familiar target as when an unfamiliar voice is separated from two symmetrical maskers by approximately 15° azimuth.