Hearing aid amplification reduces communication effort of people with hearing impairment and their conversation partners

Timothy Beechey*, Jörg M. Buchholz, Gitte Keidser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Objectives: This study investigates the hypothesis that hearing aid amplification reduces effort within conversation for both hearing aid wearers and their communication partners. Levels of effort, in the form of speech production modifications, required to maintain successful spoken communication in a range of acoustic environments are compared to earlier reported results measured in unaided conversation conditions. Design: Fifteen young adult normal-hearing participants and 15 older adult hearing-impaired participants were tested in pairs. Each pair consisted of one young normal-hearing participant and one older hearing-impaired participant. Hearing-impaired participants received directional hearing aid amplification, according to their audiogram, via a master hearing aid with gain provided according to the NAL-NL2 fitting formula. Pairs of participants were required to take part in naturalistic conversations through the use of a referential communication task. Each pair took part in five conversations, each of 5-min duration. During each conversation, participants were exposed to one of five different realistic acoustic environments presented through highly open headphones. The ordering of acoustic environments across experimental blocks was pseudorandomized. Resulting recordings of conversational speech were analyzed to determine the magnitude of speech modifications, in terms of vocal level and spectrum, produced by normal-hearing talkers as a function of both acoustic environment and the degree of high-frequency average hearing impairment of their conversation partner. Results: The magnitude of spectral modifications of speech produced by normal-hearing talkers during conversations with aided hearing-impaired interlocutors was smaller than the speech modifications observed during conversations between the same pairs of participants in the absence of hearing aid amplification. Conclusions: The provision of hearing aid amplification reduces the effort required to maintain communication in adverse conditions. This reduction in effort provides benefit to hearing-impaired individuals and also to the conversation partners of hearing-impaired individuals. By considering the impact of amplification on both sides of dyadic conversations, this approach contributes to an increased understanding of the likely impact of hearing impairment on everyday communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1299-1311
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Volume63
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

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