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The benefit of head orientation to speech intelligibility in noise
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Spatial release from masking is traditionally measured with speech in front. The effect of head-orientation with respect to the speech direction has rarely been studied. Speech-reception thresholds (SRTs) were measured for eight head orientations and four spatial configurations. Benefits of head orientation away from the speech source of up to 8 dB were measured. These correlated with predictions of a model based on better-ear listening and binaural unmasking (r = 0.96). Use of spontaneous head orientations was measured when listeners attended to long speech clips of gradually diminishing speech-to-noise ratio in a sound-deadened room. Speech was presented from the loudspeaker that initially faced the listener and noise from one of four other locations. In an undirected paradigm, listeners spontaneously turned their heads away from the speech in 56% of trials. When instructed to rotate their heads in the diminishing speech-to-noise ratio, all listeners turned away from the speech and reached head orientations associated with lower SRTs. Head orientation may prove valuable for hearing-impaired listeners.
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