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JOURNAL ARTICLE

The role of spectral resolution, working memory, and audibility in explaining variance in susceptibility to temporal envelope distortion

Evelyn Davies-Venn, Pamela Souza
Journal of the American Academy of Audiology 2014, 25 (6): 592-604
25313549

BACKGROUND: Several studies have shown that hearing thresholds alone cannot adequately predict listeners' success with hearing-aid amplification. Furthermore, previous studies have shown marked differences in listeners' susceptibility to distortions introduced by certain nonlinear amplification parameters.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to examine the role of spectral resolution, working memory, and audibility in explaining perceptual susceptibility to temporal envelope and other hearing-aid compression-induced distortions for listeners with mild to moderate and moderate to severe hearing loss.

RESEARCH DESIGN: A between-subjects repeated-measures design was used to compare speech recognition scores with linear versus compression amplification, for listeners with mild to moderate and moderate to severe hearing loss.

STUDY SAMPLE: The study included 15 adult listeners with mild to moderate hearing loss and 13 adults with moderate to severe hearing loss.

DATA COLLECTION/ANALYSIS: Speech recognition scores were measured for vowel-consonant-vowel syllables processed with linear, moderate compression, and extreme compression amplification. Perceptual susceptibility to compression-induced temporal envelope distortion was defined as the difference in scores between linear and compression amplification. Both overall scores and consonant feature scores (i.e., place, manner, and voicing) were analyzed. Narrowband spectral resolution was measured using individual measures of auditory filter bandwidth at 2000 Hz. Working memory was measured using the reading span test. Signal audibility was quantified using the Aided Audibility Index. Multiple linear regression was used to determine the predictive role of spectral resolution, working memory, and audibility benefit on listeners' susceptibility to compression-induced distortions.

RESULTS: For all listeners, spectral resolution, working memory, and audibility benefit were significant predictors of overall distortion scores. For listeners with moderate to severe hearing loss, spectral resolution and audibility benefit predicted distortion scores for consonant place and manner of articulation features, and audibility benefit predicted distortion scores for consonant voicing features. For listeners with mild to moderate hearing loss, the model did not predict distortion scores for overall or consonant feature scores.

CONCLUSIONS: The results from this study suggest that when audibility is adequately controlled, measures of spectral resolution may identify the listeners who are most susceptible to compression-induced distortions. Working memory appears to modulate the negative effect of these distortions for listeners with moderate to severe hearing loss.

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