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The Effect of Hearing Aid Noise Reduction on Listening Effort in Hearing-Impaired Adults

Desjardins, Jamie L.; Doherty, Karen A.

Ear & Hearing:
doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000028
Research Articles

Objectives: The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the effect of a noise-reduction (NR) algorithm on the listening effort hearing-impaired participants expend on a speech in noise task.

Design: Twelve hearing-impaired listeners fitted with behind-the-ear hearing aids with a fast-acting modulation–based NR algorithm participated in this study. A dual-task paradigm was used to measure listening effort with and without the NR enabled in the hearing aid. The primary task was a sentence-in-noise task presented at fixed overall speech performance levels of 76% (moderate listening condition) and 50% (difficult listening condition) correct performance, and the secondary task was a visual-tracking test. Participants also completed measures of working memory (Reading Span test), and processing speed (Digit Symbol Substitution Test) ability.

Results: Participants’ speech recognition in noise scores did not significantly change with the NR algorithm activated in the hearing aid in either listening condition. The NR algorithm significantly decreased listening effort, but only in the more difficult listening condition. Last, there was a tendency for participants with faster processing speeds to expend less listening effort with the NR algorithm when listening to speech in background noise in the difficult listening condition.

Conclusions: The NR algorithm reduced the listening effort adults with hearing loss must expend to understand speech in noise.

In Brief

The effect of hearing aid noise reduction (NR) on listening effort on a speech recognition in noise task was assessed for older hearingimpaired adults. A dual-task paradigm was used to measure objective listening effort. NR did not significantly change speech recognition scores in noise. NR significantly decreased listening effort but only in the difficult listening condition. This suggests that NR is more effective in poorer signal-to-noise ratio conditions, where the NR attenuates more gain. Last, participants with faster cognitive processing speed expended less listening effort on the speech in noise task than participants with slower cognitive processing speed.

Author Information

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, USA.

The authors declare no other conflict of interest.

Address for correspondence: Jamie L. Desjardins, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Syracuse University, 805 S. Crouse Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA. E-mail:

Received March 14, 2013; accepted November 24, 2013.

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins