Speech recognition and cognitive functions important for speech understanding were evaluated by objective measures and by scores of perceived effort, with and without hearing aids. The tests were performed in silence, and with background conditions of speech spectrum random noise and ordinary speech. One young and one elderly group of twelve hearing-impaired subjects each participated. Hearing aid use improved speech recognition in silence (7 dB) and in the condition with speech as background (2.5 dB S/N), but did not change the perceived effort scores. In the cognitive tests no hearing aid benefit was seen in objective measures, while there was an effect of hearing aid use in scores of perceived effort, subjects reported less effort. There were no age effects on hearing aid benefit. In conclusion, hearing aid use may result in reduced effort in listening tasks that is not associated with improvement in objective scores.