Maximizing effective audibility in hearing aid fitting

Teresa Y C Ching*, Harvey Dillon, Richard Katsch, Denis Byrne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This paper examines why more audibility is not always better than less audibility if hearing-impaired people are to best understand speech. Design: We used speech perception data from 14 normally hearing and 40 hearing-impaired people to quantify the contribution of audibility to speech intelligibility. The quantification revealed that the effectiveness of audibility decreased with hearing loss, and the decrement was greater at high frequencies than at lower frequencies. To apply the Speech Intelligibility Index (SII) model to predict speech intelligibility for hearing-impaired people, we modified the model to take account of effective audibility rather than physical audibility. Results: The modified SII model provided an adequate description of speech performance of people with a wide range of hearing threshold levels. We applied the model to the evaluation of two prescriptions for a sloping audiogram at prescribed levels and at equated loudness levels to demonstrate the necessity of considering loudness and effective audibility in prescribing amplification. Effective audibility is defined as audibility corrected for the effects of level distortion and hearing loss desensitization, and this paper proposes a method of estimating effective audibility from hearing threshold level at different frequencies. Conclusions: The practical implication of considering effective audibility in prescribing hearing aids is that for a given listening level, less gain is provided at frequencies where the hearing is most impaired to allow more gain at frequencies where audibility is most useful. In developing the NAL-NL1 prescription for nonlinear hearing aids, we adopted the modified SII model together with a loudness model to derive optimal gain-frequency response characteristics that maximize predicted speech intelligibility for people with different degrees of hearing losses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-224
Number of pages13
JournalEar and Hearing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2001
Externally publishedYes


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