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Amplitude (vu and rms) and Temporal (msec) Measures of Two Northwestern University Auditory Test No. 6 Recordings
06 August 2020 (online)
Background: In 1940, a cooperative effort by the radio networks and Bell Telephone produced the volume unit (vu) meter that has been the mainstay instrument for monitoring the level of speech signals in commercial broadcasting and research laboratories. With the use of computers, today the amplitude of signals can be quantified easily using the root mean square (rms) algorithm. Researchers had previously reported that amplitude estimates of sentences and running speech were 4.8 dB higher when measured with a vu meter than when calculated with rms. This study addresses the vu–rms relation as applied to the carrier phrase and target word paradigm used to assess word-recognition abilities, the premise being that by definition the word-recognition paradigm is a special and different case from that described previously.
Purpose: The purpose was to evaluate the vu and rms amplitude relations for the carrier phrases and target words commonly used to assess word-recognition abilities. In addition, the relations with the target words between rms level and recognition performance were examined.
Research Design: Descriptive and correlational.
Study Sample: Two recoded versions of the Northwestern University Auditory Test No. 6 were evaluated, the Auditec of St. Louis (Auditec) male speaker and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) female speaker.
Data Collection and Analysis: Using both visual and auditory cues from a waveform editor, the temporal onsets and offsets were defined for each carrier phrase and each target word. The rms amplitudes for those segments then were computed and expressed in decibels with reference to the maximum digitization range. The data were maintained for each of the four Northwestern University Auditory Test No. 6 word lists. Descriptive analyses were used with linear regressions used to evaluate the reliability of the measurement technique and the relation between the rms levels of the target words and recognition performances.
Results: Although there was a 1.3 dB difference between the calibration tones, the mean levels of the carrier phrases for the two recordings were −14.8 dB (Auditec) and −14.1 dB (VA) with standard deviations <1 dB. For the target words, the mean amplitudes were −19.9 dB (Auditec) and −18.3 dB (VA) with standard deviations ranging from 1.3 to 2.4 dB. The mean durations for the carrier phrases of both recordings were 593–594 msec, with the mean durations of the target words a little different, 509 msec (Auditec) and 528 msec (VA). Random relations were observed between the recognition performances and rms levels of the target words. Amplitude and temporal data for the individual words are provided.
Conclusions: The rms levels of the carrier phrases closely approximated (±1 dB) the rms levels of the calibration tones, both of which were set to 0 vu (dB). The rms levels of the target words were 5–6 dB below the levels of the carrier phrases and were substantially more variable than the levels of the carrier phrases. The relation between the rms levels of the target words and recognition performances on the words was random.