Speech Assessment and Characterization for Law Enforcement Applications

Speech signals acquired, transmitted or stored in non-ideal conditions are often degraded by one or more effects including, for example, additive noise. These degradations alter the signal properties in a manner that deteriorates the intelligibility or quality of the speech signal. In the law enforcement context such degradations are commonplace due to the limitations in the audio collection methodology, which is often required to be covert. In severe degradation conditions, the acquired signal may become unintelligible, losing its value in an investigation and in less severe conditions, a loss in signal quality may be encountered, which can lead to higher transcription time and cost. This thesis proposes a non-intrusive speech assessment framework from which algorithms for speech quality and intelligibility assessment are derived, to guide the collection and transcription of law enforcement audio. These methods are trained on a large ...

Sharma, Dushyant — Imperial College London


Prediction and Optimization of Speech Intelligibility in Adverse Conditions

In digital speech-communication systems like mobile phones, public address systems and hearing aids, conveying the message is one of the most important goals. This can be challenging since the intelligibility of the speech may be harmed at various stages before, during and after the transmission process from sender to receiver. Causes which create such adverse conditions include background noise, an unreliable internet connection during a Skype conversation or a hearing impairment of the receiver. To overcome this, many speech-communication systems include speech processing algorithms to compensate for these signal degradations like noise reduction. To determine the effect on speech intelligibility of these signal processing based solutions, the speech signal has to be evaluated by means of a listening test with human listeners. However, such tests are costly and time consuming. As an alternative, reliable and fast machine-driven intelligibility predictors are ...

Taal, Cees — Delft University of Technology


Dereverberation and noise reduction techniques based on acoustic multi-channel equalization

In many hands-free speech communication applications such as teleconferencing or voice-controlled applications, the recorded microphone signals do not only contain the desired speech signal, but also attenuated and delayed copies of the desired speech signal due to reverberation as well as additive background noise. Reverberation and background noise cause a signal degradation which can impair speech intelligibility and decrease the performance for many signal processing techniques. Acoustic multi-channel equalization techniques, which aim at inverting or reshaping the measured or estimated room impulse responses between the speech source and the microphone array, comprise an attractive approach to speech dereverberation since in theory perfect dereverberation can be achieved. However in practice, such techniques suffer from several drawbacks, such as uncontrolled perceptual effects, sensitivity to perturbations in the measured or estimated room impulse responses, and background noise amplification. The aim of this thesis ...

Kodrasi, Ina — University of Oldenburg


Design and evaluation of noise reduction techniques for binaural hearing aids

One of the main complaints of hearing aid users is their degraded speech understanding in noisy environments. Modern hearing aids therefore include noise reduction techniques. These techniques are typically designed for a monaural application, i.e. in a single device. However, the majority of hearing aid users currently have hearing aids at both ears in a so-called bilateral fitting, as it is widely accepted that this leads to a better speech understanding and user satisfaction. Unfortunately, the independent signal processing (in particular the noise reduction) in a bilateral fitting can destroy the so-called binaural cues, namely the interaural time and level differences (ITDs and ILDs) which are used to localize sound sources in the horizontal plane. A recent technological advance are so-called binaural hearing aids, where a wireless link allows for the exchange of data (or even microphone signals) between the ...

Cornelis, Bram — KU Leuven


Speech derereverberation in noisy environments using time-frequency domain signal models

Reverberation is the sum of reflected sound waves and is present in any conventional room. Speech communication devices such as mobile phones in hands-free mode, tablets, smart TVs, teleconferencing systems, hearing aids, voice-controlled systems, etc. use one or more microphones to pick up the desired speech signals. When the microphones are not in the proximity of the desired source, strong reverberation and noise can degrade the signal quality at the microphones and can impair the intelligibility and the performance of automatic speech recognizers. Therefore, it is a highly demanded task to process the microphone signals such that reverberation and noise are reduced. The process of reducing or removing reverberation from recorded signals is called dereverberation. As dereverberation is usually a completely blind problem, where the only available information are the microphone signals, and as the acoustic scenario can be non-stationary, ...

Braun, Sebastian — Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg


Digital signal processing algorithms for noise reduction, dynamic range compression, and feedback cancellation in hearing aids

Hearing loss can be caused by many factors, e.g., daily exposure to excessive noise in the work environment and listening to loud music. Another important reason can be age-related, i.e., the slow loss of hearing that occurs as people get older. In general hearing impaired people suffer from a frequency-dependent hearing loss and from a reduced dynamic range between the hearing threshold and the uncomfortable level. This means that the uncomfortable level for normal hearing and hearing impaired people suffering from so called sensorineural hearing loss remains the same but the hearing threshold and the sensitivity to soft sounds are shifted as a result of the hearing loss. To compensate for this kind of hearing loss the hearing aid should include a frequency-dependent and a level-dependent gain. The corresponding digital signal processing (DSP) algorithm is referred to as dynamic range ...

Ngo, Kim — KU Leuven


Development and evaluation of psychoacoustically motivated binaural noise reduction and cue preservation techniques

Due to their decreased ability to understand speech hearing impaired may have difficulties to interact in social groups, especially when several people are talking simultaneously. Fortunately, in the last decades hearing aids have evolved from simple sound amplifiers to modern digital devices with complex functionalities including noise reduction algorithms, which are crucial to improve speech understanding in background noise for hearing-impaired persons. Since many hearing aid users are fitted with two hearing aids, so-called binaural hearing aids have been developed, which exchange data and signals through a wireless link such that the processing in both hearing aids can be synchronized. In addition to reducing noise and limiting speech distortion, another important objective of noise reduction algorithms in binaural hearing aids is the preservation of the listener’s impression of the acoustical scene, in order to exploit the binaural hearing advantage and ...

Marquardt, Daniel — University of Oldenburg, Germany


Spatial features of reverberant speech: estimation and application to recognition and diarization

Distant talking scenarios, such as hands-free calling or teleconference meetings, are essential for natural and comfortable human-machine interaction and they are being increasingly used in multiple contexts. The acquired speech signal in such scenarios is reverberant and affected by additive noise. This signal distortion degrades the performance of speech recognition and diarization systems creating troublesome human-machine interactions.This thesis proposes a method to non-intrusively estimate room acoustic parameters, paying special attention to a room acoustic parameter highly correlated with speech recognition degradation: clarity index. In addition, a method to provide information regarding the estimation accuracy is proposed. An analysis of the phoneme recognition performance for multiple reverberant environments is presented, from which a confusability metric for each phoneme is derived. This confusability metric is then employed to improve reverberant speech recognition performance. Additionally, room acoustic parameters can as well be used ...

Peso Parada, Pablo — Imperial College London


Integrating monaural and binaural cues for sound localization and segregation in reverberant environments

The problem of segregating a sound source of interest from an acoustic background has been extensively studied due to applications in hearing prostheses, robust speech/speaker recognition and audio information retrieval. Computational auditory scene analysis (CASA) approaches the segregation problem by utilizing grouping cues involved in the perceptual organization of sound by human listeners. Binaural processing, where input signals resemble those that enter the two ears, is of particular interest in the CASA field. The dominant approach to binaural segregation has been to derive spatially selective filters in order to enhance the signal in a direction of interest. As such, the problems of sound localization and sound segregation are closely tied. While spatial filtering has been widely utilized, substantial performance degradation is incurred in reverberant environments and more fundamentally, segregation cannot be performed without sufficient spatial separation between sources. This dissertation ...

Woodruff, John — The Ohio State University


Advances in DFT-Based Single-Microphone Speech Enhancement

The interest in the field of speech enhancement emerges from the increased usage of digital speech processing applications like mobile telephony, digital hearing aids and human-machine communication systems in our daily life. The trend to make these applications mobile increases the variety of potential sources for quality degradation. Speech enhancement methods can be used to increase the quality of these speech processing devices and make them more robust under noisy conditions. The name "speech enhancement" refers to a large group of methods that are all meant to improve certain quality aspects of these devices. Examples of speech enhancement algorithms are echo control, bandwidth extension, packet loss concealment and noise reduction. In this thesis we focus on single-microphone additive noise reduction and aim at methods that work in the discrete Fourier transform (DFT) domain. The main objective of the presented research ...

Hendriks, Richard Christian — Delft University of Technology


Group-Sparse Regression - With Applications in Spectral Analysis and Audio Signal Processing

This doctorate thesis focuses on sparse regression, a statistical modeling tool for selecting valuable predictors in underdetermined linear models. By imposing different constraints on the structure of the variable vector in the regression problem, one obtains estimates which have sparse supports, i.e., where only a few of the elements in the response variable have non-zero values. The thesis collects six papers which, to a varying extent, deals with the applications, implementations, modifications, translations, and other analysis of such problems. Sparse regression is often used to approximate additive models with intricate, non-linear, non-smooth or otherwise problematic functions, by creating an underdetermined model consisting of candidate values for these functions, and linear response variables which selects among the candidates. Sparse regression is therefore a widely used tool in applications such as, e.g., image processing, audio processing, seismological and biomedical modeling, but is ...

Kronvall, Ted — Lund University


Integrated active noise control and noise reduction in hearing aids

In every day life conversations and listening scenarios the desired speech signal is rarely delivered alone. The listener most commonly faces a scenario where he has to understand speech in a noisy environment. Hearing impairments, and more particularly sensorineural losses, can cause a reduction of speech understanding in noise. Therefore, in a hearing aid compensating for such kind of losses it is not sufficient to just amplify the incoming sound. Hearing aids also need to integrate algorithms that allow to discriminate between speech and noise in order to extract a desired speech from a noisy environment. A standard noise reduction scheme in general aims at maximising the signal-to-noise ratio of the signal to be fed in the hearing aid loudspeaker. This signal, however, does not reach the eardrum directly. It first has to propagate through an acoustic path and encounter ...

Serizel, Romain — KU Leuven


Best Signal Selection with Automatic Delay Compensation in VoIP Environment

In the last decades, air traffic spread more and more in the world, connecting more and more places. At the same time, the need to manage all the flights correctly and securely increased. Air traffic authorities imposed and updated several standards for the air traffic management (ATM) system, keeping in pace with the growing traffic flow. To achieve this, special voice communication systems (VCS) were developed. They ensure the communication between the pilots and the operators from the ground control centers. When a communication is initiated between the aircraft’s pilot and the ground air traffic control operator, various systems are used. The pilot speaks through the aircraft’s radio station and the signal is received by several ground radio stations. Then, the signal from each ground radio station arrives on different paths to the control center. Here one of the received ...

Marinescu, Radu-Sebastian — University Politehnica of Bucharest


Speech Enhancement Using Nonnegative Matrix Factorization and Hidden Markov Models

Reducing interference noise in a noisy speech recording has been a challenging task for many years yet has a variety of applications, for example, in handsfree mobile communications, in speech recognition, and in hearing aids. Traditional single-channel noise reduction schemes, such as Wiener filtering, do not work satisfactorily in the presence of non-stationary background noise. Alternatively, supervised approaches, where the noise type is known in advance, lead to higher-quality enhanced speech signals. This dissertation proposes supervised and unsupervised single-channel noise reduction algorithms. We consider two classes of methods for this purpose: approaches based on nonnegative matrix factorization (NMF) and methods based on hidden Markov models (HMM). The contributions of this dissertation can be divided into three main (overlapping) parts. First, we propose NMF-based enhancement approaches that use temporal dependencies of the speech signals. In a standard NMF, the important temporal ...

Mohammadiha, Nasser — KTH Royal Institute of Technology


Contributions to Single-Channel Speech Enhancement with a Focus on the Spectral Phase

Single-channel speech enhancement refers to the reduction of noise signal components in a single-channel signal composed of both speech and noise. Spectral speech enhancement methods are among the most popular approaches to solving this problem. Since the short-time spectral amplitude has been identified as a highly perceptually relevant quantity, most conventional approaches rely on processing the amplitude spectrum only, ignoring any information that may be contained in the spectral phase. As a consequence, the noisy short-time spectral phase is neither enhanced for the purpose of signal reconstruction nor is it used for refining short-time spectral amplitude estimates. This thesis investigates the use of the spectral phase and its structure in algorithms for single-channel speech enhancement. This includes the analysis of the spectral phase in the context of theoretically optimal speech estimators. The resulting knowledge is exploited in formulating single-channel speech ...

Johannes Stahl — Graz University of Technology

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