The primary goal of nonlinear frequency compression (NFC) and other frequency-lowering strategies is to increase the audibility of high-frequency sounds that are not otherwise audible with conventional hearing aid (HA) processing due to the degree of hearing loss, limited HA bandwidth, or a combination of both factors. The aim of the present study was to compare estimates of speech audibility processed by NFC with improvements in speech recognition for a group of children and adults with high-frequency hearing loss.
Monosyllabic word recognition was measured in noise for 24 adults and 12 children with mild to severe sensorineural hearing loss. Stimuli were amplified based on each listener’s audiogram with conventional processing (CP) with amplitude compression or with NFC and presented under headphones using a software-based HA simulator. A modification of the speech intelligibility index (SII) was used to estimate audibility of information in frequency-lowered bands. The mean improvement in SII was compared with the mean improvement in speech recognition.
All but 2 listeners experienced improvements in speech recognition with NFC compared with CP, consistent with the small increase in audibility that was estimated using the modification of the SII. Children and adults had similar improvements in speech recognition with NFC.
Word recognition with NFC was higher than CP for children and adults with mild to severe hearing loss. The average improvement in speech recognition with NFC (7%) was consistent with the modified SII, which indicated that listeners experienced an increase in audibility with NFC compared with CP. Further studies are necessary to determine whether changes in audibility with NFC are related to speech recognition with NFC for listeners with greater degrees of hearing loss, with a greater variety of compression settings, and using auditory training.