Orienting Auditory Attention through Vision: the Impact of Monaural Listening
The understanding of linguistic messages can be made extremely complex by the simultaneous presence of interfering sounds, especially when they are also linguistic in nature. In two experiments, we tested if visual cues directing attention to spatial or temporal components of speech in noise can improve its identification. The hearing-in-noise task required identification of a five-digit sequence (target) embedded in a stream of time-reversed speech. Using a custom-built device located in front of the participant, we delivered visual cues to orient attention to the location of target sounds and/or their temporal window. In Exp. 1 (n = 14), we validated this visual-to-auditory cueing method in normal-hearing listeners, tested under typical binaural listening conditions. In Exp. 2 (n = 13), we assessed the efficacy of the same visual cues in normal-hearing listeners wearing a monaural ear plug, to study the effects of simulated monaural and conductive hearing loss on visual-to-auditory attention orienting. While Exp. 1 revealed a benefit of both spatial and temporal visual cues for hearing in noise, Exp. 2 showed that only the temporal visual cues remained effective during monaural listening. These findings indicate that when the acoustic experience is altered, visual-to-auditory attention orienting is more robust for temporal compared to spatial attributes of the auditory stimuli. These findings have implications for the relation between spatial and temporal attributes of sound objects, and when planning devices to orient audiovisual attention for subjects suffering from hearing loss.