Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name





Brett A. Martin

Subject Categories

Speech Pathology and Audiology


listening effort, electroyphysiologic measures, dual-task paradigm, subjective questionnaire, NASA Task Load Index


Purpose – Listeners often report difficulty perceiving speech in background noise, such as when listening in a restaurant. A common complaint of difficulty perceiving speech in noisy restaurants leads to the development of the present study, where audio recordings of connected discourse mixed with restaurant noise at different signal-to-noise ratios were made to determine the effect of restaurant noise on listening effort. Listening effort has previously been examined with psychophysiological measures, a dual-task paradigm, and qualitative measures using a variety of auditory stimuli ranging from simple tonal stimuli to complex speech stimuli, such as consonant-vowel syllables, words, and full sentences, but never in the context of a conversation. Real-life restaurant noise has also never been used in research study. The central goal is to develop realistic stimuli using real-life conversations that can potentially be used for an electrophysiologic study to determine the effect of background noise on listening effort. Three different conversations with each focusing on a particular topic (food, animals, and locations) were developed. Each conversation contains 25 high- and 25 low-probability target words. The incorporation of high- and low-probability target words in the connected discourse allows the exploration of the effect of predictability in conversations on psychophysiological recordings (P3 and N4). A framework of a potential study utilizing the realistic stimuli with a dual-task paradigm and measurement of auditory evoked potentials (P3 and N4) for the evaluation of the effect of background noise on listening effort is also proposed and pilot data applying this framework to one research subject is presented. The use of real-life conversations in varying restaurant noise for the evaluation of listening effort is a novel approach and has potential to inform clinical practice by providing an ecologically-valid means to assess the difficulties experienced in difficult, but realistic listening situations.