Quantifying the Effect of Compression Hearing Aid Release Time on Speech Acoustics and Intelligibility

Jenstad, Lorienne M.; Souza, Pamela E.
June 2005
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Jun2005, Vol. 48 Issue 3, p651
Academic Journal
Compression hearing aids have the inherent, and often adjustable, feature of release time from compression. Research to date does not provide a consensus on how to choose or set release time. The current study had 2 purposes: (a) a comprehensive evaluation of the acoustic effects of release time for a single-channel compression system in quiet and (b) an evaluation of the relation between the acoustic changes and speech recognition. The release times under study were 12, 100, and 800 ms. All of the stimuli were VC syllables from the Nonsense Syllable Task spoken by a female talker. The stimuli were processed through a hearing aid simulator at 3 input levels. Two acoustic measures were made on individual syllables: the envelope-difference index and CV ratio. These measurements allowed for quantification of the short-term amplitude characteristics of the speech signal and the changes to these amplitude characteristics caused by compression. The acoustic analyses revealed statistically significant effects among the 3 release times. The size of the effect was dependent on characteristics of the phoneme. Twelve listeners with moderate sensorineural hearing loss were tested for their speech recognition for the same stimuli. Although release time for this single-channel, 3:1 compression ratio system did not directly predict overall intelligibility for these nonsense syllables in quiet, the acoustic measurements reflecting the changes due to release time were significant predictors of phoneme recognition. Increased temporal-envelope distortion was predictive of reduced recognition for some individual phonemes, which is consistent with previous research on the importance of relative amplitude as a cue to syllable recognition for some phonemes.


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