Auditory-Filter Characteristics for Listeners With Real and Simulated Hearing Impairment

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Abstract

Functional simulation of sensorineural hearing impairment is an important research tool that can elucidate the nature of hearing impairments and suggest or eliminate compensatory signal-processing schemes. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the capability of an audibility-based functional simulation of hearing loss to reproduce the auditory-filter characteristics of listeners with sensorineural hearing loss. The hearing-loss simulation used either threshold-elevating noise alone or a combination of threshold-elevating noise and multiband expansion to reproduce the audibility-based characteristics of the loss (including detection thresholds, dynamic range, and loudness recruitment). The hearing losses of 10 listeners with bilateral, mild-to-severe hearing loss were simulated in 10 corresponding groups of 3 age-matched normal-hearing listeners. Frequency selectivity was measured using a notched-noise masking paradigm at five probe frequencies in the range of 250 to 4000 Hz with a fixed probe level of either 70 dB SPL or 8 dB SL (whichever was greater) and probe duration of 200 ms. The hearing-loss simulation reproduced the absolute thresholds of individual hearing-impaired listeners with an average root-mean-squared (RMS) difference of 2.2 dB and the notched-noise masked thresholds with an RMS difference of 5.6 dB.A rounded-exponential model of the notched-noise data was used to estimate equivalent rectangular bandwidths and slopes of the auditory filters. For some subjects and probe frequencies, the simulations were accurate in reproducing the auditory-filter characteristics of the hearing-impaired listeners. In other cases, however, the simulations underestimated the magnitude of the auditory bandwidths for the hearing-impaired listeners, which suggests the possibility of suprathreshold deficits.

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