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J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2014 Oct;15(5):839-48. doi: 10.1007/s10162-014-0466-8. Epub 2014 Jun 5.

Effects of noise reduction on AM perception for hearing-impaired listeners.

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Ecole Normale Supérieure, Institut d'Etude de la Cognition, Paris Sciences et Lettres, 75005, Paris, France,


Noise reduction (NR) systems are commonplace in modern digital hearing aids. Though not improving speech intelligibility, NR helps the hearing-aid user in terms of lowering noise annoyance, reducing cognitive load and improving ease of listening. Previous psychophysical work has shown that NR does in fact improve the ability of normal-hearing (NH) listeners to discriminate the slow amplitude-modulation (AM) cues representative of those found in speech. The goal of this study was to assess whether this improvement of AM discrimination with NR can also be observed for hearing-impaired (HI) listeners. AM discrimination was measured at two audio frequencies of 500 Hz and 2 kHz in a background noise with a signal-to-noise ratio of 12 dB. Discrimination was measured for ten HI and ten NH listeners with and without NR processing. The HI listeners had a moderate sensorineural hearing loss of about 50 dB HL at 2 kHz and normal hearing (≤ 20 dB HL) at 500 Hz. The results showed that most of the HI listeners tended to benefit from NR at 500 Hz but not at 2 kHz. However, statistical analyses showed that HI listeners did not benefit significantly from NR at any frequency region. In comparison, the NH listeners showed a significant benefit from NR at both frequencies. For each condition, the fidelity of AM transmission was quantified by a computational model of early auditory processing. The parameters of the model were adjusted separately for the two groups (NH and HI) of listeners. The AM discrimination performance of the HI group (with and without NR) was best captured by a model simulating the loss of the fast-acting amplitude compression applied by the normal cochlea. This suggests that the lack of benefit from NR for HI listeners results from loudness recruitment.

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