Assessing and reducing cognitive load of listening to speech in adverse conditions

Objectives

Understanding speech can be severely impaired by different factors such as environmental noise, bad transmission quality, competing tasks requiring shared cognitive capacity, or reduced hearing capabilities. While several audio signal processing approaches exist to enhance speech for playback under adverse conditions, it is not well understood how such methods perform under various listening conditions, or how they can benefit individual users with different hearing capabilities. Furthermore, there is a lack of knowledge regarding methods to quantitatively assess the benefit due to speech enhancement strategies in terms of reduced cognitive load or listening effort, in particular with respect to methods which can be applied in-situ without explicit listener interaction.

The objectives of this project are to:

  1. Investigate the achievable benefit of speech enhancement concepts in various listening conditions and for a variety of listeners.
  2. Compare and evaluate different methods to assess the relieve of cognitive load and listening effort, including both behavioral assessment (e.g. subjective rating, dual task paradigms) as well as for non-intrusive neurophysiological methods (e.g. EEG)

Duties include:

  • Devising novel solutions to the technical challenges of the project, in close collaboration with your supervisors and other project researchers
  • Investigating and optimising speech enhancement schemes to reduce listening effort and cognitive load applicable in a variety of listening conditions
  • Performing simulated, laboratory and real-world evaluations of the developed techniques
  • Creating a toolbox for evaluation methods to assess cognitive load and listening effort during complex listening tasks
  • Publishing academic papers in conferences and journals
  • Visit to other network sites, such as Hörzentrum (Germany) and UCL (London)

Essential requirements

  • A Master’s degree in one of: Computer Science, Hearing Sciences, Physics or Engineering
  • No more than 4 years of full-time equivalent research experience since obtaining a degree that would allow entry to a PhD
  • Technical skills and knowledge: Programming skills (Matlab, Python, C, or another appropriate language); Basic knowledge of speech signal processing
  • Applicants must also meet the standard Eligibility requirements

Desirable requirements

  • Knowledge of speech perception including the effects of hearing impairment
  • Knowledge and experience with auditory experiments and the ability to implement them
  • Knowledge of neurophysiological measurement methods, e.g. EEG
  • Advanced speech signal processing skills
  • Knowledge and experience of statistical analysis techniques

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