To determine preferred parameters of multichannel compression using individually fitted simulated hearing aids and a method of paired comparisons.
Fourteen participants with mild to moderate hearing loss listened via a simulated five-channel compression hearing aid fitted using the CAMEQ2-HF method to pairs of speech sounds (a male talker and a female talker) and musical sounds (a percussion instrument, orchestral classical music, and a jazz trio) presented sequentially and indicated which sound of the pair was preferred and by how much. The sounds in each pair were derived from the same token and differed along a single dimension in the type of processing applied. For the speech sounds, participants judged either pleasantness or clarity; in the latter case, the speech was presented in noise at a 2-dB signal-to-noise ratio. For musical sounds, they judged pleasantness. The parameters explored were time delay of the audio signal relative to the gain control signal (the alignment delay), compression speed (attack and release times), bandwidth (5, 7.5, or 10 kHz), and gain at high frequencies relative to that prescribed by CAMEQ2-HF.
Pleasantness increased with increasing alignment delay only for the percussive musical sound. Clarity was not affected by alignment delay. There was a trend for pleasantness to decrease slightly with increasing bandwidth, but this was significant only for female speech with fast compression. Judged clarity was significantly higher for the 7.5- and 10-kHz bandwidths than for the 5-kHz bandwidth for both slow and fast compression and for both talker genders. Compression speed had little effect on pleasantness for 50- or 65-dB SPL input levels, but slow compression was generally judged as slightly more pleasant than fast compression for an 80-dB SPL input level. Clarity was higher for slow than for fast compression for input levels of 80 and 65 dB SPL but not for a level of 50 dB SPL. Preferences for pleasantness were approximately equal with CAMEQ2-HF gains and with gains slightly reduced at high frequencies and were lower when gains were slightly increased at high frequencies. Speech clarity was not affected by changing the gain at high frequencies.
Effects of alignment delay were small except for the percussive sound. A wider bandwidth was slightly preferred for speech clarity. Speech clarity was slightly greater with slow compression, especially at high levels. Preferred high-frequency gains were close to or a little below those prescribed by CAMEQ2-HF.