NAL-NL1, the first procedure from the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) for prescribing nonlinear gain, was a purely theoretically derived formula aimed at maximizing speech intelligibility for any input level of speech while keeping the overall loudness of speech at or below normal loudness. The formula was obtained through an optimization process in which speech intelligibility and loudness were predicted from selected models. Using updated models and applying some revisions to the derivation process, a theoretically derived NAL-NL2 formula was obtained in a similar way. Further adjustments, directed by empirical data collected in studies using NAL-NL1 as the baseline response, have been made to the theoretically derived formula. Specifically, empirical data have demonstrated that (a) female hearing aid users prefer lower overall gain than male users; (b) new hearing aid users with more than a mild hearing loss prefer increasingly less gain with increasing degree of hearing loss than experienced hearing aid users, and require up to 2 years to adapt to gain levels selected by experienced hearing aid users; (c) unilaterally and bilaterally fitted hearing aid users prefer overall gain levels that vary less than estimated by the bilateral correction factor; (d) adults prefer lower overall gain than children; and (e) people with severe/profound hearing loss prefer lower compression ratios than predicted when fitted with fast-acting compression. The literature and data leading to these conclusions are summarized and discussed in this article, and the procedure for implementing the adjustments to the theoretically derived NAL-NL2 formula is described.
- binaural loudness summation
- hearing aid fitting