The Effects of Syllabic Compression and Frequency Shaping on Speech Intelligibility in Hearing

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The effect of syllabic compression on speech intelligibility is rarely positive and in those cases that positive effects have been found, the same positive results could in general be obtained by frequency shaping of the frequency response curve. We programmed a syllabic compressor on a digital processor; the compressor differed from a conventional syllabic compressor by incorporating a delay in the signal path to suppress overshoots and thus minimize transient distortion. Furthermore, the time constants were short: attack time of 5 msec and release time of 15 msec. The compressor was only active in the high-frequency band. An essentially linear signal was added to deliver the low-frequency speech components. The processing resulted in a frequency response that mirrored the hearing loss near threshold and became much flatter for higher level input signals. Speech intelligibility scores for nonsense consonant-vowel-consonant words embedded in carrier phrases were determined for hearing-impaired persons with sloping audiograms and discrimination losses for speech. Results showed little additional effect of frequency shaping to the existing improved speech score for compressed speech. Optimum results were found for a compression ratio 2 with lower speech scores for linear amplification and for compression ratio 8. We next determined the effect of providing high-frequency emphasis to the speech signal and/or to the compression control signal to compensate for the upward spread of masking. The frequency response at the root-mean-square level was adjusted according to the half-gain rule. The positive effects of moderate compression could be found again; the high-frequency emphasis, however, was positive for the vowels but made consonant recognition poorer. We concluded that smoothing the speech intelligibility score improved for moderate compression with relative little effect of frequency shaping. Adding high-frequency emphasis to a half-gain rule response curve was not advantageous.

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