The auditory system takes advantage of early reflections (ERs) in a room by integrating them with the direct sound (DS) and thereby increasing the effective speech level. In the present paper the benefit from realistic ERs on speech intelligibility in diffuse speech-shaped noise was investigated for normal-hearing and hearing-impaired listeners. Monaural and binaural speech intelligibility tests were performed in a virtual auditory environment where the spectral characteristics of ERs from a simulated room could be preserved. The useful ER energy was derived from the speech intelligibility results and the efficiency of the ERs was determined as the ratio of the useful ER energy to the total ER energy. Even though ER energy contributed to speech intelligibility, DS energy was always more efficient, leading to better speech intelligibility for both groups of listeners. The efficiency loss for the ERs was mainly ascribed to their altered spectrum compared to the DS and to the filtering by the torso, head, and pinna. No binaural processing other than a binaural summation effect could be observed.