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The relationship between speech intelligibility and the assessment of noise annoyance


When thinking about noise annoyance, the tendency is to imagine a person’s rest
being disturbed by noise. Although this idea is not formulated explicitly, the
majority of traditional experiments implicitly assume that absence of activity
during rest represents the typical situation in which noise annoyance should
be studied. We propose that research should be extended to different kinds of
activities. This study focuses on one kind of activity: verbal communication.
Our hypothesis is that the assessment of difficulty with speech comprehension
can be replaced by a speech intelligibility measure, which could assess annoyance
experienced during communicative activities. Finally, we would like to
find out how noise annoyance disturbs communicative activity, and to compare
this with annoyance experienced during rest. To test our hypothesis, two psychoacoustic
experiments were performed. In Experiment I, speech intelligibility
was measured for eight environmental noises at seven signal-to-noise ratios
(SNRs). For these SNR values, the participants assessed their difficulty with
speech comprehension. This established the relationships between the intelligibility
functions and the difficultly in speech comprehension for all the investigated
noises. The results of Experiment I show that the potential noise annoyance
rating could be predicted on the basis of the speech intelligibility scores, as
they give much smaller inter-individual differences between participants than
an annoyance assessment test. In Experiment II, the standard “resting”
method of noise annoyance assessment was applied to the same eight noises.
A comparison of the results indicated a correlation between the annoyance
ratings obtained in both the experiments. Some limitations of this approach
are also discussed in the paper.


Academic article





  • Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan
  • SINTEF Digital / Sustainable Communication Technologies



Published in

Noise Control Engineering Journal








255 - 264

View this publication at Cristin