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Perceptual compensation for reverberation in human listeners and machines

Beeston, Amy V (2015) Perceptual compensation for reverberation in human listeners and machines. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis explores compensation for reverberation in human listeners and machines. Late reverberation is typically understood as a distortion which degrades intelligibility. Recent research, however, shows that late reverberation is not always detrimental to human speech perception. At times, prolonged exposure to reverberation can provide a helpful acoustic context which improves identification of reverberant speech sounds. The physiology underpinning our robustness to reverberation has not yet been elucidated, but is speculated in this thesis to include efferent processes which have previously been shown to improve discrimination of noisy speech. These efferent pathways descend from higher auditory centres, effectively recalibrating the encoding of sound in the cochlea. Moreover, this thesis proposes that efferent-inspired computational models based on psychoacoustic principles may also improve performance for machine listening systems in reverberant environments. A candidate model for perceptual compensation for reverberation is proposed in which efferent suppression derives from the level of reverberation detected in the simulated auditory nerve response. The model simulates human performance in a phoneme-continuum identification task under a range of reverberant conditions, where a synthetically controlled test-word and its surrounding context phrase are independently reverberated. Addressing questions which arose from the model, a series of perceptual experiments used naturally spoken speech materials to investigate aspects of the psychoacoustic mechanism underpinning compensation. These experiments demonstrate a monaural compensation mechanism that is influenced by both the preceding context (which need not be intelligible speech) and by the test-word itself, and which depends on the time-direction of reverberation. Compensation was shown to act rapidly (within a second or so), indicating a monaural mechanism that is likely to be effective in everyday listening. Finally, the implications of these findings for the future development of computational models of auditory perception are considered.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Engineering (Sheffield) > Computer Science (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > Computer Science (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.640672
Depositing User: Amy V Beeston
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2015 11:31
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 12:09
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8351

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