Subjective effects of peak clipping and compression limiting in normal and hearing-impaired children and adults

P. G. Stelmachowicz, D. E. Lewis, B. Hoover, D. H. Keefe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Despite many advances in hearing-aid signal processing, compression limiting and peak clipping are still used. To date, perceptual studies have been conducted only with adults. The current study was designed to investigate the clarity of peak-clipped and compressed speech for both adults and children. Subjects were 30 normal-hearing and 30 hearing-impaired individuals in three age ranges (7-9, 10-12, and 16-50 years). Stimuli were processed at 60, 70, 75, and 80 dB SPL using peak clipping and at 80 dB SPL using compression limiting. Paired-comparison measures were used to assess the clarity of sentences, and a signal-to-distortion ratio (SDR) based on a measure of coherence between input and output was computed for each condition. For the peak-clipping conditions, there was a decrease in perceived clarity as the input increased from 60 to 80 dB SPL. This perceptual continuum was most apparent for the normal-hearing adults. The normal-hearing 10-12 year olds and the hearing-impaired adults showed a similar, but less pronounced, pattern. In contrast, the remaining three subject groups showed minimal differences in perceived clarity across conditions. Surprisingly, only the two oldest normal-hearing groups showed a clear preference for compression limiting over peak clipping at the highest input level, and only their results were consistent with the pattern of coherence across stimuli. Judgments of clarity by the normal-hearing subjects correlated best with the SDR in the 500-2000-Hz range, while clarity judgments of the hearing-impaired subjects correlated best with the SDR below 1000 Hz.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-422
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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