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Special Issue "Speech Communication in Complex Auditory Scenes and Effects on Voice Behaviour and Health, Listening Comfort, Well-being, and Learning"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Behavior, Chronic Disease and Health Promotion".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2022 | Viewed by 2142

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Arianna Astolfi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Energy, Polytechnic University of Turin, 10129 Turin, Italy
Interests: classroom acoustics; speech intelligibility; voice monitoring; concert-hall acoustics; acoustic materials; soundscape and sound insulation
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Giuseppina Emma Puglisi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Politecnico di Torino, Department of Energy, Corso Duca degli Abruzzi 24, 10129, Torino, Italy
Interests: classroom acoustics; speech intelligibility; cognitive abilities; speech production; voice monitoring; soundscape
Prof. Dr. Janina Fels
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute and Chair for Hearing Technology and Acoustics, RWTH Aachen University, Kopernikusstraße 5, 52074 Aachen, Germany
Interests: auditory cognition in interactive virtual environments; classroom acoustics (interaction between room acoustics–hearing–speaking); binaural technology/spatial audio; technical systems for ENT and audiology; sound design and sound quality; noise control and noise assessment (binaural perception and auditory selective attention); psychoacoustics: binaural perception in complex environments
Ms. Karin Loh
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute and Chair for Hearing Technology and Acoustics, RWTH Aachen University, Kopernikusstraße 5, 52074 Aachen, Germany
Interests: classroom acoustics; children’s auditory cognition; noise effects; activity-based acoustic settings
Dr. Anna Warzybok
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Medical Physics and Cluster of Excellence Hearing4all, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany
Interests: speech perception in acoustically complex environments; audio-visual scenes; classroom acoustics; hearing impairment; fitting and assessment of hearing devices; speech recognition modelling

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are immersed in multicultural and densely occupied settings that make everyday life environments more and more challenging from the acoustic point of view. Effective speech communication is a fundamental need to face everyday relationships during an entire lifespan. Especially, it is crucial to enhance learning, the sense of belonging to a group, the personal safety and satisfaction, the ability of understanding speech for people with hearing loss (e.g., with hearing aids or cochlear implants)and for people who speak a different language. Speech communication accounts for both a talker’s and a listener’s premises. On the one side, the talker is asked to preserve her/his voice, and on the other side, the listener must be enabled to understand a message clearly.

Unfavorable room acoustics, such as high reverberation as well as environmental and anthropically-generated noise are factors that affect speech communication and in turn health, listening comfort, learning, well-being and working productivity. Complex auditory scenes for speech communication can be referred among others to teaching and learning environments, offices, restaurants, social or recreation spaces, outdoor spaces, enclosed public transport premises, shopping malls.

Professionals, such as teachers, singers, call-centre operators, use their voice as a primary working tool and may suffer from the onset of vocal pathologies at several levels. Voice disorders and vocal load can increase due to recurrent situations, such as the acoustic characteristics of the environments in which voice is used.

Vulnerable listeners are particularly interested in enhanced auditory conditions, such as young pupils that are at the first stages of education, knowledge workers in big open-plan offices, the elderly who may suffer from hearing and cognitive deficits, and hearing-impaired listeners equipped with implants or hearing aids.

The aim of the present Special Issue is to bring together up-to-date research on the speaking- and auditory-related aspects of speech communication in everyday life environments, such as:

  • Experimental campaigns to investigate complex auditory scenes for speech communication;
  • Application of virtual reality to investigate complex auditory scenes;
  • Optimization of auditory scenes;
  • Flexible solutions in everyday life environments to improve speech communication;
  • Control of speech and noise generated by occupants;
  • Assessment of the perceived acoustic comfort and well-being via occupant survey and relations with acoustic measurement data;
  • Occupants’ health in dependence on acoustic conditions;
  • Occupants’ cognitive abilities, performance and productivity related to their acoustic environment;
  • Impact of hearing impairment and benefit from hearing devices;
  • Influence of other environmental aspects on speech communication.

Prof. Dr. Arianna Astolfi
Dr. Giuseppina Emma Puglisi
Prof. Dr. Janina Fels
Ms. Karin Loh
Dr. Anna Warzybok
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2500 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Speech communication
  • Complex auditory scenes
  • Everyday life environments
  • Vocal behaviour and health
  • Vocal comfort
  • Noise control
  • Acoustic comfort
  • Learning
  • Well-being
  • Occupants’ behaviour and cognition

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

Article
Effects of Face Masks on Physiological Parameters and Voice Production during Cycling Activity
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(11), 6491; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19116491 (registering DOI) - 26 May 2022
Abstract
This study investigates the effects of face masks on physiological and voice parameters, focusing on cyclists that perform incremental sports activity. Three healthy male subjects were monitored in a climatic chamber wearing three types of masks with different acoustic properties, breathing resistance, and [...] Read more.
This study investigates the effects of face masks on physiological and voice parameters, focusing on cyclists that perform incremental sports activity. Three healthy male subjects were monitored in a climatic chamber wearing three types of masks with different acoustic properties, breathing resistance, and air filtration performance. Masks A and B were surgical masks made of hydrophobic fabric and three layers of non-woven fabric of 100% polypropylene, respectively. Mask S was a multilayer cloth mask designed for sports activity. Mask B and Mask S behave similarly and show lower sound attenuation and sound transmission loss and lower breathing resistance than Mask A, although Mask A exhibits slightly higher filtration efficiency. Similar cheek temperatures were observed for Masks A and B, while a significantly higher temperature was measured with Mask S at incremental physical activity. No differences were found between the masks and the no-mask condition for voice monitoring. Overall, Mask B and Mask S are suitable for sports activities without adverse effects on voice production while ensuring good breathing resistance and filtration efficiency. These outcomes support choosing appropriate masks for sports activities, showing the best trade-off between breathing resistance and filtration efficiency, sound attenuation, and sound transmission loss. Full article
Article
Towards Child-Appropriate Virtual Acoustic Environments: A Database of High-Resolution HRTF Measurements and 3D-Scans of Children
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(1), 324; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19010324 - 29 Dec 2021
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Abstract
Head-related transfer functions (HRTFs) play a significant role in modern acoustic experiment designs in the auralization of 3-dimensional virtual acoustic environments. This technique enables us to create close to real-life situations including room-acoustic effects, background noise and multiple sources in a controlled laboratory [...] Read more.
Head-related transfer functions (HRTFs) play a significant role in modern acoustic experiment designs in the auralization of 3-dimensional virtual acoustic environments. This technique enables us to create close to real-life situations including room-acoustic effects, background noise and multiple sources in a controlled laboratory environment. While adult HRTF databases are widely available to the research community, datasets of children are not. To fill this gap, children aged 5–10 years old were recruited among 1st and 2nd year primary school children in Aachen, Germany. Their HRTFs were measured in the hemi-anechoic chamber with a 5-degree × 5-degree resolution. Special care was taken to reduce artifacts from motion during the measurements by means of fast measurement routines. To complement the HRTF measurements with the anthropometric data needed for individualization methods, a high-resolution 3D-scan of the head and upper torso of each participant was recorded. The HRTF measurement took around 3 min. The children’s head movement during that time was larger compared to adult participants in comparable experiments but was generally kept within 5 degrees of rotary and 1 cm of translatory motion. Adult participants only exhibit this range of motion in longer duration measurements. A comparison of the HRTF measurements to the KEMAR artificial head shows that it is not representative of an average child HRTF. Difference can be seen in both the spectrum and in the interaural time delay (ITD) with differences of 70 μs on average and a maximum difference of 138 μs. For both spectrum and ITD, the KEMAR more closely resembles the 95th percentile of range of children’s data. This warrants a closer look at using child specific HRTFs in the binaural presentation of virtual acoustic environments in the future. Full article
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Article
Subjective Experience of Speech Depending on the Acoustic Treatment in an Ordinary Room
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(23), 12274; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182312274 - 23 Nov 2021
Viewed by 622
Abstract
In environments such as classrooms and offices, complex tasks are performed. A satisfactory acoustic environment is critical for the performance of such tasks. To ensure a good acoustic environment, the right acoustic treatment must be used. The relation between different room acoustic treatments [...] Read more.
In environments such as classrooms and offices, complex tasks are performed. A satisfactory acoustic environment is critical for the performance of such tasks. To ensure a good acoustic environment, the right acoustic treatment must be used. The relation between different room acoustic treatments and how they affect speech perception in these types of rooms is not yet fully understood. In this study, speech perception was evaluated for three different configurations using absorbers and diffusers. Twenty-nine participants reported on their subjective experience of speech in respect of different configurations in different positions in a room. They judged sound quality and attributes related to speech perception. In addition, the jury members ranked the different acoustic environments. The subjective experience was related to the different room acoustic treatments and the room acoustic parameters of speech clarity, reverberation time and sound strength. It was found that people, on average, rated treatments with a high degree of absorption as best. This configuration had the highest speech clarity value and lowest values for reverberation time and sound strength. The perceived sound quality could be correlated to speech clarity, while attributes related to speech perception had the strongest association with reverberation time. Full article
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