Comparison of Speech Perception in Background Noise With Acceptance of Background Noise in Aided and Unaided Conditions

Nabelek, Anna K.; Tampas, Joanna W.; Burchfield, Samuel B.
October 2004
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Oct2004, Vol. 47 Issue 5, p1001
Academic Journal
Background noise is a significant factor influencing hearing-aid satisfaction and is a major reason for rejection of hearing aids. Attempts have been made by previous researchers to relate the use of hearing aids to speech perception in noise (SPIN), with an expectation of improved speech perception followed by an increased acceptance of hearing aids. Unfortunately, SPIN was not related to hearing-aid use or satisfaction. A new measure of listener reaction to background noise has been proposed. The acceptable noise level (ANL), expressed in decibels, is defined as a difference between the most comfortable listening level for speech and the highest background noise level that is acceptable when listening to and following a story. The ANL measure assumes that speech understanding in noise may not be as important as is the willingness to listen in the presence of noise. It has been established that people who accept background noise have smaller ANLs and tend to be "good" users of hearing aids. Conversely, people who cannot accept background noise have larger ANLs and may only use hearing aids occasionally or reject them altogether. Because this is a new measure, it was important to determine the reliability of the ANL over time with and without hearing aids, to determine the effect of acclimatization to hearing aids, and to compare the ANL to well-established measures such as speech perception scores collected with the SPIN test. Results from 50 listeners indicate that for both good and occasional hearing aid users, the ANL is comparable in reliability to the SPIN test and that both measures do not change with acclimatization. The ANLs and SPIN scores are unrelated. Although the SPIN scores improve with amplification, the ANLs are unaffected by amplification, suggesting that the ANL is inherent to an individual and can be established prior to hearing aid fitting as a possible predictor of hearing-aid use.


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