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Intelligibility of dysphonic speech in classrooms (Botallico et al., 2023)

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posted on 2023-06-21, 22:29 authored by Pasquale Bottalico, Silvia Murgia, Taylor Mekus, Mary Flaherty

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to assess the acoustical conditions in which optimal intelligibility and low listening difficulty can be achieved in real classrooms for elementary students, taking into consideration the effects of dysphonic voice and typical classroom noise.

Method: Speech intelligibility tests were performed in six elementary classrooms with 80 normal-hearing students aged 7–11 years. The speech material was produced by a female actor using a normal voice quality and simulating a dysphonic voice. The stimuli were played by a Head and Torso Simulator. Child babble noise and classrooms with different reverberation times were used to obtain a Speech Transmission Index (STI) range from 0.2 to 0.7, corresponding to the categories bad, poor, fair, and good.

Results: The results showed a statistically significant decrease in intelligibility when the speaker was dysphonic, in STI higher than 0.33. The rating of listening difficulty showed a significantly greater difficulty in perceiving the dysphonic voice. In addition, younger children showed poorer performance and greater listening difficulty compared with older children when listening to the normal voice quality. Both groups were equally impacted when the voice was dysphonic.

Conclusions: The results suggested that better acoustic conditions are needed for children to reach a good level of intelligibility and to reduce listening difficulty if the teacher is suffering from voice problems. This was true for children regardless of grade level, highlighting the importance of ensuring more favorable acoustic conditions for children throughout all elementary schools.

Supplemental Material S1. Acoustic parameters recorded in the six classrooms from each microphone and each noise condition.

Supplemental Material S2. Mean values, standard deviation, standard error and confidence interval for intelligibility score and listening difficulty for each conditions.

Bottalico, P., Murgia, S., Mekus, T., & Flaherty, M. (2023). Classroom acoustics for enhancing students’ understanding when a teacher suffers from a dysphonic voice. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. Advance online publication.


This work was funded by the Campus Research Board Awards (RB20006) from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (PI: Bottalico) and by the 2019 New Century Scholars Research Grant from ASHFoundation (PI: Bottalico).