Improving speech audibility with wide dynamic range compression in listeners with severe sensorineural loss

P E Souza, R D Bishop
Ear and Hearing 1999, 20 (6): 461-70

OBJECTIVE: In contrast to fitting strategies for linear amplification, which have been refined frequently for listeners with different degrees of hearing loss, we know relatively little about the effects of wide dynamic range compression (WDRC) amplification for listeners with severe auditory thresholds. The primary objective of this study was to determine if increases in audibility with WDRC amplification improved speech recognition to a comparable degree for listeners with different degrees of hearing loss.

DESIGN: Listeners with mild to moderate or severe sensorineural loss were tested on recognition of vowel-consonant-vowel (VCV) syllables and sentences digitally processed with linear and WDRC amplification. The speech materials were presented under conditions of controlled audibility, in which WDRC amplification improved speech audibility over linear amplification. Presentation levels were chosen to provide equivalent increases in audibility with WDRC amplification for both listener groups. A control condition in which audibility was equated for the two amplification conditions was also included.

RESULTS: Recognition results for VCV stimuli indicated that both listener groups received the same benefit from the improved audibility provided by WDRC amplification. Results for sentence recognition showed a greater benefit of WDRC amplification for listeners with mild to moderate than for listeners with severe loss.

CONCLUSIONS: Increasing the amount of audible speech information with WDRC has similar effects on consonant recognition for listeners with different degrees of hearing loss. Differences in sentence recognition for listeners with different degrees of loss may be due to processing effects or to differences in available acoustic information for longer segments of WDRC-amplified speech.


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