Faculty Name
Project Title
Kreisman, Brian
Communication Arts & Sciences
The Effect of Speech Rate and Background Noise on Speech Perception
Few studies have examined how the rate of speech impacts an individual’s ability to
understand speech (speech perception), especially for people who speak English as a
second or other language and individuals with hearing loss. Estimates for the average rate of
speech range from about 130 to 190 words per minute (Apoux et al, 2004; Gordon­Salant et
al, 2007; Humes et al, 2007; Reynolds & Givens, 2001); however, speech rate increases
when the speaker feels excited or stressed (Tye­Murray, 2015). The purpose of the present
study is to investigate the effect of speech rate in quiet and background noise on listeners’
speech perception. The methodology employed by the present study strengthens the
research design used for a pilot study (at my previous university) by utilizing stimuli that can
be randomized by speaking rate and speech list, as well as adding a test condition that
includes background noise. This study is approved by the Calvin Institutional Review Board
(IRB #15­041). To date, data collection has been completed for young adults with normal hearing that are
native­English speakers (YNE). At least three other groups of adult participants are expected
to be involved in this line of research over the next two years. This portion of the data
collection will include a group of young adults who speak English as a second or other
language (YESL) group, as well as beginning the longer process of collecting data with older
adults with near­normal hearing that are native­English speakers (ONE) and older adults with
hearing loss that are native­English speakers (OHL). Ideally, the results comparing YNE to
YESL will provide insight into the effects of language familiarity on speech perception, the
results comparing YNE to ONE will shed light on the potential differences in cognitive
processing rates on speech perception, and the results comparing ONE to OHL will provide a
better understanding of the effects of hearing loss on speech perception. Pilot data
suggested that as speaking rate increased, YNE performed better than ESL (Kreisman &
Smaldino, 2010) or OHL (Kreisman & Smaldino, 2011). If the results using the more rigorous methodology in this study are consistent with the pilot
data, this research may have widespread implications. For example, overall findings and the
subsequent discussion thereof could help improve teachers’ and pastors’ communication
when speaking to groups that include these populations. Other populations that may be
included in future research include older adults who speak English as a second or other
language, adults who use cochlear implants, children with normal hearing, children with
auditory processing disorders, children with hearing loss, and children who use cochlear
The student is expected to prepare and present the study results at the McGregor student
presentations. In addition, the student will help prepare to submit the project for presentation
(as co­author) at a regional or national conference (most likely either the American Speech­
Language­Hearing Association Conference or the American Academy of Audiology
Conference). Because this portion of the study would be collecting data on a specific
population, it is possible that these data will be presented in future presentations and/or
manuscripts along with data from other populations. The student will, at the minimum, be
acknowledged along with any other students who assisted with data collection. It is hoped
that the student also would be able to contribute as a co­author on a manuscript. Dissemination of the larger study to more general audiences could also provide schools,
colleges, and churches with information that could improve teaching and preaching,
especially to those individuals who speak English as a Second or Other Language as well as
people who have hearing loss.
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