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Re: Reference for typical SNRs is public spaces


This is an interesting question and I agree I’m not sure we have definitive answer. My interpretation of the Pearsons data is that SNRs in the environments they tested were generally quite positive (+4 to +14 dB inside and outside homes, hospitals and department stores; all based on A-weighted measures) except for measures made on trains and in aircraft where average SNRs dropped to -1 to -2 dB (see their Table II). This seems to be somewhat consistent with the measures described by Karolina, if I’m recalling the poster correctly.

To me this seems to make sense because communicating in very noisy settings (e.g., BG noise levels >70-75 dB) would require the individual to either 1) speak at very high vocal efforts (try speaking at a level of 70-75 dBA -1 meter from the microphone for any length of time. I find I have to concentrate and work hard to keep that level) or 2) be very close to the listener to create SNRs that are reasonable for carrying on a “conversation”. The Pearsons data suggests people move closer rather than speak at levels above 70 dBA.


So to Andy’s original question “…SNRs that are typically observed in public spaces (e.g., restaurants, bars ...etc)…” I guess you would have to decide what is “typical”? How much of the day are you in restaurants and bars (where the SNRs may be quite poor) versus other settings where the SNRs are generally much more favorable.





From: AUDITORY - Research in Auditory Perception [mailto:AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John Culling
Sent: Thursday, January 23, 2014 4:44 AM
To: AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: Reference for typical SNRs is public spaces


Hi Andy.


This is a very tricky question. I am not aware of any definitive data that really

addresses the issue adequately.


Laboratory studies tend to use single sound sources in anechoic conditions.

The auditory system copes very well in these conditions. The results indicate

that listeners can cope with very low SNRs (e.g. -10 dB for spatialised speech-

shaped noise interference, and lower for speech interferers). Moreover, some

studies have used several interferers (e.g. Peissig and Kollmeier '97, Hawley et al.

'04), and shown a gradual elevation in SRT with increasing numbers of interferers.

Simulating a more complex scene, like a restaurant with multiple interferers

and reverberation produces progressive degradation, though. We have been

simulating up to eight interfering voices from a variety of speakers with reverb

based on real-room binaural room impulse responses. SRTs are around -2 to -3

dB with eigth interfering voices. I haven't begun to write this work up yet, but

the results are not disimilar to those from a cruder preliminary study published



Culling, J. F. (2013). “Energetic and informational masking in a simulated restaurant environment” in Moore, B. C. J., Carlyon, R. P., and Gockel, H., Patterson, R. D. and Winter, I. M.. (eds) Basic Aspects of Hearing: Physiology and Perception (Springer, New York)


There remain limitations to this approach, of course. The technique remains

dependent on standard target speech materials (IEEE/Harvard sentences)

that are not very typical of normal conversation - particularly lacking a

conversational context. It is also unclear whether 50% keyword intelligibility

is a tolerable level of comprehension for conversation.


Karolina's study has other limitations. If I remember correctly, the material

was recorded from hearing impaired individuals, who may avoid the more

severe listening conditions into which normally hearing people thrust

themselves. Also, the method of establishing the SNR from the recordings

would probably become impossible below a certain SNR, as it relies on

a researcher judging from the recordings alone whether or not target

speech is present. Noise level is collected from epochs without target

speech, and speech level is derived by subtraction.


Nonetheless, both approaches indicate that real-world SNRs are unlikely

to be very near -10 dB, but be somewhere around 0 dB. Karolina's work

suggests a bit above, mine a bit below.


I guess what is really needed is for pairs of interlocutors to be wired up with

close microphones at the mouth (to establish reliably who is talking when)

and at their ears, and then to go out for the night and try to produce normal

speaking and listening behaviour. Perhaps after a few nights of this they

would habituate to all the kit, and produce data that will get us closer to a

true answer.




From: AUDITORY - Research in Auditory Perception [mailto:AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Andy Sabin
Sent: 22 January 2014 17:53
To: AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Reference for typical SNRs is public spaces


Hi List, 


Can anyone point me to a reference showing SNRs that are typically observed in public spaces (e.g., restaurants, bars ...etc)? I can find this info for overall SPL, but am having a hard time finding it for SNR. 



Andy Sabin