Speech recognition performance of patients with sensorineural hearing loss under unaided and aided conditions using linear and compression hearing AIDS

Janet E Shanks, Richard H Wilson, Vern Larson, David Williams
Ear and Hearing 2002, 23 (4): 280-90

OBJECTIVES: This study compared speech recognition performance on the Northwestern University Auditory Test No. 6 (NU-6) and the Connected Speech Test (CST) for three hearing aid circuits (peak clipping [PC], compression limiting [CL], and wide dynamic range compression [WDRC]) in adults with symmetrical sensorineural hearing loss. The study also questioned whether or not hearing aid benefit for the three circuits was dependent upon the speech level and the signal-to-babble ratio (S/B) and upon the degree and slope of hearing loss.

DESIGN: Unaided speech recognition performance for NU-6 and CST materials presented from a loudspeaker at 0 degrees was measured during Visit 1, and both unaided and aided performance was measured at 3-mo intervals during Visits 2 to 4. The NU-6 was presented in quiet at a conversational speech level of 62 dB SPL. The CST was presented in 10 listening conditions-three S/B (-3, 0, and 3 dB) at each of three speech levels (soft speech at 52 dB SPL, conversational speech at 62 dB SPL, and loud speech at 74 dB SPL) and in quiet at 74 dB SPL. Uncorrelated multi-talker babble was presented from two loudspeakers at 45 degrees on each side of the main speaker. Hearing aid benefit was examined for 360 subjects divided into four groups of hearing loss, pure tone average <40 dB HL and slope <10 dB/octave or >10 dB/octave and hearing loss >40 dB HL for the two slope categories.

RESULTS: Hearing aid benefit (aided minus unaided performance) measured on the NU-6 in quiet exceeded 31 rau for all three circuits. Although small statistical advantages were found for the WDRC, the differences were approximately 2% and are not considered clinically relevant. Unaided CST performance showed a complex relationship between presentation level and signal-to-babble ratio that was further confounded by the degree of hearing loss. For the two mild hearing loss groups and for each of the three nominal signal-to-babble ratios, CST performance decreased by 20 rau for the -3 dB S/B to 6 rau for the 3 dB S/B as speech level increased from 52 to 74 dB SPL. In contrast, unaided performance increased by 32 to 13 rau with signal level for all signal-to-babble ratios for the two >40 dB hearing loss groups. Overall, aided CST performance exceeded unaided performance for all 10 conditions. As expected, hearing aid benefit was greatest (27 rau) for soft speech and smallest for loud speech (6 rau). Differences among the hearing aid circuits were small with only one significant difference; the WDRC at 62/0 was poorer by 3 rau than the other two circuits. When the CST data were analyzed as a function of hearing loss, five pair-wise comparisons were significant. In contrast to the unaided performance, aided performance for all hearing loss groups decreased as presentation level increased, even though the signal-to-babble ratio was constant.

CONCLUSIONS: All three hearing aids circuits provided benefit over the unaided condition in both quiet and noise. The greatest benefit was measured for soft speech in the more severe hearing loss groups. Although only small differences were measured among the three hearing aid circuits, significant differences favored the PC and CL circuits over the WDRC in the mild hearing loss groups and favored the WDRC over the PC in the more severe, sloping hearing loss group. An interesting interaction between speech level, signal-to-babble ratio, degree of hearing loss, and amplification was found. For a constant signal-to-babble ratio, recognition performance decreased as speech level increased from 52 to 74 dB SPL. The effect was most marked in the milder hearing loss groups and in the aided conditions, and occurred at even the lowest speech levels.

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