Effects of Modified Hearing Aid Fittings on Loudness and Tone Quality for Different Acoustic Scenes

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To compare loudness and tone-quality ratings for sounds processed via a simulated five-channel compression hearing aid fitted using NAL-NL2 or using a modification of the fitting designed to be appropriate for the type of listening situation: speech in quiet, speech in noise, music, and noise alone.


Ratings of loudness and tone quality were obtained for stimuli presented via a loudspeaker in front of the participant. For normal-hearing participants, levels of 50, 65, and 80 dB SPL were used. For hearing-impaired participants, the stimuli were processed via a simulated hearing aid with five-channel fast-acting compression fitted using NAL-NL2 or using a modified fitting. Input levels to the simulated hearing aid were 50, 65, and 80 dB SPL. All participants listened with one ear plugged. For speech in quiet, the modified fitting was based on the CAM2B method. For speech in noise, the modified fitting used slightly (0 to 2 dB) decreased gains at low frequencies. For music, the modified fitting used increased gains (by 5 to 14 dB) at low frequencies. For noise alone, the modified fitting used decreased gains at all frequencies (by a mean of 1 dB at low frequencies increasing to 8 dB at high frequencies).


For speech in quiet, ratings of loudness with the NAL-NL2 fitting were slightly lower than the mean ratings for normal-hearing participants for all levels, while ratings with CAM2B were close to normal for the two lower levels, and slightly greater than normal for the highest level. Ratings of tone quality were close to the optimum value (“just right”) for both fittings, except that the CAM2B fitting was rated as very slightly boomy for the 80-dB SPL level. For speech in noise, the ratings of loudness were very close to the normal values and the ratings of tone quality were close to the optimal value for both fittings and for all levels. For music, the ratings of loudness were close to the normal values for NAL-NL2 and slightly above normal for the modified fitting. The tone quality was rated as very slightly tinny for NAL-NL2 and very slightly boomy for the modified fitting. For noise alone, the NAL-NL2 fitting was rated as slightly louder than normal for all levels, while the modified fitting was rated as close to normal. Tone quality was rated as slightly sharper for the NAL-NL2 fitting than for the modified fitting.


Loudness and tone quality can sometimes be made slightly closer to “normal” by modifying gains for different listening situations. The modification for music required to achieve “normal” tone quality appears to be less than used in this study.

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