Assessing the Generalization Gap of Learning-Based Speech Enhancement Systems in Noisy and Reverberant Environments

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The acoustic variability of noisy and reverberant speech mixtures is influenced by multiple factors, such as the spectro-temporal characteristics of the target speaker and the interfering noise, the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and the room characteristics. This large variability poses a major challenge for learning-based speech enhancement systems, since a mismatch between the training and testing conditions can substantially reduce the performance of the system. Generalization to unseen conditions is typically assessed by testing the system with a new speech, noise or binaural room impulse response (BRIR) database different from the one used during training. However, the difficulty of the speech enhancement task can change across databases, which can substantially influence the results. The present study introduces a generalization assessment framework that uses a reference model trained on the test condition, such that it can be used as a proxy for the difficulty of the test condition. This allows to disentangle the effect of the change in task difficulty from the effect of dealing with new data, and thus to define a new measure of generalization performance termed the generalization gap. The procedure is repeated in a cross-validation fashion by cycling through multiple speech, noise, and BRIR databases to accurately estimate the generalization gap. The proposed framework is applied to evaluate the generalization potential of a feedforward neural network (FFNN), Conv-TasNet, DCCRN and MANNER. We find that for all models, the performance degrades the most in speech mismatches, while good noise and room generalization can be achieved by training on multiple databases. Moreover, while recent models show higher performance in matched conditions, their performance substantially decreases in mismatched conditions and can become inferior to that of the FFNN-based system.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE/ACM Transactions on Audio, Speech, and Language Processing
Pages (from-to)3390-3403
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Speech enhancement
  • Databases
  • Training
  • Testing
  • Task analysis
  • Noise measurement
  • Data models


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