The Effect of Sound Localization on Auditory-Only and Audiovisual Speech Recognition in a Simulated Multitalker Environment

Sterling W. Sheffield*, Harley J. Wheeler, Douglas S. Brungart, Joshua G.W. Bernstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Information regarding sound-source spatial location provides several speech-perception benefits, including auditory spatial cues for perceptual talker separation and localization cues to face the talker to obtain visual speech information. These benefits have typically been examined separately. A real-time processing algorithm for sound-localization degradation (LocDeg) was used to investigate how spatial-hearing benefits interact in a multitalker environment. Normal-hearing adults performed auditory-only and auditory-visual sentence recognition with target speech and maskers presented from loudspeakers at −90°, −36°, 36°, or 90° azimuths. For auditory-visual conditions, one target and three masking talker videos (always spatially separated) were rendered virtually in rectangular windows at these locations on a head-mounted display. Auditory-only conditions presented blank windows at these locations. Auditory target speech (always spatially aligned with the target video) was presented in co-located speech-shaped noise (experiment 1) or with three co-located or spatially separated auditory interfering talkers corresponding to the masker videos (experiment 2). In the co-located conditions, the LocDeg algorithm did not affect auditory-only performance but reduced target orientation accuracy, reducing auditory-visual benefit. In the multitalker environment, two spatial-hearing benefits were observed: perceptually separating competing speech based on auditory spatial differences and orienting to the target talker to obtain visual speech cues. These two benefits were additive, and both were diminished by the LocDeg algorithm. Although visual cues always improved performance when the target was accurately localized, there was no strong evidence that they provided additional assistance in perceptually separating co-located competing speech. These results highlight the importance of sound localization in everyday communication.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTrends in Hearing
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • auditory stream segregation
  • binaural hearing
  • sound localization
  • virtual reality
  • visual speech cues


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