The goal of this study was to test the theoretical advantages of a single-channel wide dynamic range compression (WDRC) circuit for speech intelligibility and loudness comfort for five speech spectra.
Twelve adolescents and young adults with moderate to severe hearing loss were fitted with the Siemens Viva 2 Pro behind-the-ear instrument set to DSL 4.0 targets for both linear gain and WDRC processing. Speech intelligibility was measured in the unaided, linear gain and WDRC conditions using two tasks in quiet: nonsense words and sentences. The items were digitally filtered to represent five speech spectra: average speech at 4 m, average speech at 1 m, own voice at ear level, classroom at 1 m, and shouted speech at 1 m. The subjects also rated the loudness of each hearing aid/speech spectrum combination using a categorical rating scale.
Both the linear gain and WDRC settings provided improved speech recognition relative to the unaided condition, and the two circuits resulted in equivalent performance for average speech input levels. On average, the WDRC aid resulted in high and uniform speech recognition scores across the five spectra. In contrast, the linear gain aid resulted in a lower recognition score for soft speech and shouted speech relative to that obtained with an average speech level. Analysis of individual speech recognition benefit scores revealed that 11 out of 12 subjects had equal or greater performance with the WDRC processing than the linear processing. Subjective loudness ratings in the linear gain condition were compatible with decreased sensation level for soft speech and loudness discomfort for shouted speech.
WDRC processing has potential applications in hearing aid fittings for listeners with moderate to severe hearing loss because it provides a consistently audible and comfortable signal across a wide range of listening conditions in quiet without the need for volume control adjustments.
Hearing Health Care Research Unit, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada. L.E.C. is currently affiliated with dspfactory, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. J.S. is currently affiliated with Shantz Hearing Clinic, Elmira, Ontario, Canada.
Address for correspondence: Lorienne M. Jenstad, M.Cl.Sc., Hearing Health Care Research Unit, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, The University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada N6G 1H1.
Received February 25, 1998; accepted November 5, 1998