P04Session 2 (Friday 12 January 2024, 09:00-11:30)Exploring attentive listening in noise through the just-follow conversation task
Being even a passive listener in a social gathering can be a challenge. There could be more than a story told by one person or a conversation amongst many that we may want to follow. In the just follow conversation task (JFC), a listener adjusts the signal level to where they can understand, with effort, the gist of what is being said in a background of noise. The JFC therefore provides insight into how we experience conversational listening by assigning an acoustic measure, a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), to our self-perceived ability. Here, we use the JFC to probe if there is a difference between focused listening to dialogues vs. monologues, and how well we can distribute our attention across multiple dialogues or monologues. We further explore the psychometric properties of the JFC as a perceptual measure of attentive and aided listening.
Participants sat in the centre of a circular loudspeaker array and adjusted the level of one monologue, one dialogue, two monologues or two dialogues presented in the front hemifield to where they could just follow the speech. On each trial, participants made four adjustments. Signals were presented in an Ambisonics café background and uncorrelated same-spectrum noise, both at a fixed long-term average level of 67.3 dB(A). Bilateral hearing-aid users adjusted each speech type in each background both aided and unaided. Non-users repeated each condition to evaluate reliability.
Results show that just following a dialogue is generally perceived as more difficult than following a monologue, but the relationship is dependent on the type of noise and amplification. Individual JFC SNRs were correlated with speech subscale scores on the SSQ12 (Speech, Spatial and Qualities of Hearing Scale) as well as individual pure-tone threshold averages. No significant differences were found between unaided and aided conditions for hearing-aid users. JFC reliability was comparable to more objective speech understanding measures, but it may not be suitable to capture perceived conversational benefits for more subtle changes in hearing-aid processing.