Eliciting naturalistic conversations

a method for assessing communication ability, subjective experience, and the impacts of noise and hearing impairment

Timothy Beechey*, Jörg M. Buchholz, Gitte Keidser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to introduce a method of eliciting conversational behavior with many aspects of realism, which may be used to study the impacts of hearing impairment and noise on verbal communication; to describe the characteristics of speech and language participants produced during the task; and to assess participants’ engagement and motivation while completing the task. Method: Twenty young adults with normal hearing and 20 older adults with hearing impairment took part in face-to-face conversations while completing a referential communication puzzle task designed to elicit natural conversational speech production and language with a number of realistic characteristics. Participants rated the difficulty and relevance of acoustic scenes for communication and their engagement in conversations. Results: The communication task elicited speech production in a natural conversational register and language with many realistic characteristics, including complex linguistic constructions and typical disfluencies found in everyday speech, and approximately balanced contributions within dyads. Subjective ratings suggest that the task is robust to learning and fatigue effects and that participants remained highly engaged throughout the experiment. All participants were able to maintain successful communication regardless of background noise level and degree of hearing impairment. Conclusions: The communication task described here may be used as part of a functional assessment of the ability to communicate in the presence of noise and hearing impairment. Although existing speech assessments have many strengths, they do not take into account the inherently interactive nature of spoken communication or the effects of motivation and engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-484
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2019

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