Listening effort and speech recognition with frequency compression amplification for children and adults with hearing loss

Marc A. Brennan, Dawna Lewis, Ryan McCreery, Judy Kopun, Joshua M. Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Nonlinear frequency compression (NFC) can improve the audibility of high-frequency sounds by lowering them to a frequency where audibility is better; however, this lowering results in spectral distortion. Consequently, performance is a combination of the effects of increased access to highfrequency sounds and the detrimental effects of spectral distortion. Previous work has demonstrated positive benefits of NFC on speech recognition when NFC is set to improve audibility while minimizing distortion. However, the extent to which NFC impacts listening effort is not well understood, especially for children with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). Purpose: To examine the impact of NFC on recognition and listening effort for speech in adults and children with SNHL. Research Design: Within-subject, quasi-experimental study. Participants listened to amplified nonsense words that were (1) frequency-lowered using NFC, (2) low-pass filtered at 5 kHz to simulate the restricted bandwidth (RBW) of conventional hearing aid processing, or (3) low-pass filtered at 10 kHz to simulate extended bandwidth (EBW) amplification. Study Sample: Fourteen children (8-16 yr) and 14 adults (19-65 yr) with mild-to-severe SNHL. Intervention: Participants listened to speech processed by a hearing aid simulator that amplified input signals to fit a prescriptive target fitting procedure. Data Collection and Analysis: Participants were blinded to the type of processing. Participants' responses to each nonsense word were analyzed for accuracy and verbal-response time (VRT; listening effort). A multivariate analysis of variance and linear mixed model were used to determine the effect of hearing-aid signal processing on nonsense word recognition and VRT. Results: Both children and adults identified the nonsense words and initial consonants better with EBW and NFC than with RBW. The type of processing did not affect the identification of the vowels or final consonants. There was no effect of age on recognition of the nonsense words, initial consonants, medial vowels, or final consonants. VRT did not change significantly with the type of processing or age. Conclusion: Both adults and children demonstrated improved speech recognition with access to the high-frequency sounds in speech. Listening effort as measured by VRT was not affected by access to high-frequency sounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)823-837
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Audiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • Auditory rehabilitation
  • Frequency lowering
  • Hearing AIDS and assistive listening devices
  • Pediatric audiology
  • Speech perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Speech and Hearing


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