15th Speech in Noise Workshop, 11-12 January 2024, Potsdam, Germany 15th Speech in Noise Workshop, 11-12 January 2024, Potsdam, Germany

Exploring mechanisms behind dynamic multi-talker listening

Hartmut Meister 
University of Cologne, Germany

In communication situations of daily life multiple persons often speak at the same time. Such conditions, coined by the term “Cocktail Party Problem” (Cherry, 1953), place high demands on both the auditory system as well as cognitive abilities. Multi-talker listening requires the segregation of competing speech streams in order to focus attention on the message of interest (Shinn-Cunningham & Best, 2008). Stream segregation relies on different acoustic features, such as voice, spatial and intensity cues.

However, realistic scenarios typically involve conversational turn-taking, that is, the talker of interest can change dynamically. This has implications for auditory attention, as multiple sources need to be monitored and the focus of attention has to be switched when the target changes. Compared to static conditions with only one talker of interest, such dynamic multi-talker situations typically come at a “cost”- reflected in decreased speech recognition or increased reaction times, demonstrating the corresponding cognitive load (e.g., Brungart & Simpson, 2007; Lin & Carlile, 2015; Meister et al., 2020).

In a series of studies, our aim was to shed light on different mechanisms of dynamic versus static multi-talker listening (Meister et al., 2020; Wächtler et al. 2021; Wächtler et al., 2022). The studies are based on a paradigm with three spatially separated talkers presenting matrix sentences simultaneously. The talker of interest was dynamically changed with different switching probabilities, putting different strain on attentional demands. Costs of dynamic listening were calculated in relation to static conditions and different error types, such as confusion between the three talkers or omissions, were determined to get a more detailed insight into the different effects. The talk will present several analyses addressing the mechanism of dynamic multi-talker listening with a focus on age and hearing loss.

Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (ME2751/3-1).


  • Brungart, D.S., Simpson, B.D. (2007). Cocktail party listening in a dynamic multitalker environment. Percept. Psychophys. Jan 69 (1), 79e91.
  • Cherry, E.C. (1953). Some experiments on the recognition of speech, with one and with two ears. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 25, 975e979.
  • Lin, G., Carlile, S. (2015). Costs of switching auditory spatial attention in following conversational turn-taking. Front. Neurosci. Apr. 20 9, 124.
  • Meister, H., Wenzel, F., Gehlen, A. K., Kessler, J., & Walger, M. (2020). Static and dynamic cocktail party listening in younger and older adults. Hearing research, 395, 108020.
  • Shinn-Cunningham, B.G., Best, V. (2008). Selective attention in normal and impaired hearing. Trends Amplif. Dec 12 (4), 283e299.
  • Wächtler, M., Kessler, J., Walger, M., & Meister, H. (2021). Costs of dynamic cocktail party listening: Investigating the effects of cognitive abilities and hearing impairment. JASA EL, 1(7), 075201.
  • Wächtler, M., Kessler, J., Walger, M., & Meister, H. (2022). Revealing Perceptional and Cognitive Mechanisms in Static and Dynamic Cocktail Party Listening by Means of Error Analyses. Trends in hearing, 26, 23312165221111676.

Last modified 2024-01-16 10:49:05