Humans commonly encounter reverberant sounds and, in order to accurately interpret acoustic data, reverberation processing must be a fundamental aspect of human audition. However, little is known about how the human auditory system detects reverberation, and subsequently processes reverberant signals. In addition, state-of- the-art computational dereverberation algorithms perform poorly compared with healthy human listeners. Hearing-impaired listeners, with and without cochlear implants, often show decreased comprehension in reverberant environments. Human perception of reverberation will be explored via two experimental methods: (1) Systematic measurement of reverberation properties in real-word spaces. This will measure the distribution of reverberation filter properties that humans regularly encounter. (2) Perceptual experiments with synthetic sources or synthetic reverberation filters. Volunteer listeners will judge synthetic sounds as "reverberant" or "dry" and attempt to match sources and filters. It is hypothesized that the auditory system must make assumptions about the source and/or filter to perceptually separate the two and if the synthetic source/filter violates these assumptions, listener's ability to correctly identify them from reverberant recordings will degrade. The broader objective of this work is to gain a basic understanding of how quantitative changes in an acoustic signal, affect both the perceived sound and sense of space in human listeners. Such work will inform the design of future audition experiments, cochlear implants, public-announcement systems for large reverberant spaces and automated voice-recognition systems for human-computer-interfaces.

Public Health Relevance

Although most healthy listeners can process mildly reverberant sounds with ease, reverberation poses a severe communication barrier in several cases: (1) Hearing impaired listeners show a marked degradation of speech comprehension in the presence of reverberation;and (2) Automated speech recognition software that allows hands-free operation of a computer, which is useful for users whose hands are busy or immobilized through injury or disability, currently performs poorly in the presence of reverberation. A quantitative understanding of how humans process reverberant signals may aid the design of cochlear implants and computational dereverberation algorithms.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Type
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
Project #
1F32DC013703-01A1
Application #
8716207
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZDC1-SRB-K (19))
Program Officer
Sklare, Dan
Project Start
2014-02-20
Project End
2017-02-19
Budget Start
2014-02-20
Budget End
2015-02-19
Support Year
1
Fiscal Year
2014
Total Cost
$53,282
Indirect Cost
Name
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department
Other Basic Sciences
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
001425594
City
Cambridge
State
MA
Country
United States
Zip Code
02139