Niels Henrik Pontoppidan

Research Area Manager

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Clinicians often hear that hearing-aid users find listening in reverberant conditions disproportionately difficult. However, very few studies have compared how hearing-impaired and normal-hearing listeners are affected by reverberation. This study made that comparison by means of speech recognition experiments.

Tests of speech recognition

Two listener groups – consisting of 12 hearing-impaired and 5 normal-hearing listeners – participated in the experiments. They listened to Danish HINT sentences in a background of two other male speakers, or in a background of two uncorrelated single-talker modulated noise signals. Target and maskers were presented from separate loudspeakers, and for the hearing-impaired listeners, audibility was individually compensated for in a frequency-specific manner. The experiment was carried out in both a reverberant and an anechoic room.



As expected, the hearing-impaired listeners performed worse than the normal-hearing listeners. They required a better Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) to get 50% of the sentences correct. However, the key observation was that both listener groups were affected by the same amount of SNR when going from anechoic to reverberant test conditions. The reasons for the clinical reports are therefore thought to be that reverberation makes easy listening conditions slightly challenging for normal-hearing people; while the same acoustical change makes difficult listening conditions impossible for hearing-impaired people.

The study also compared monaural and binaural listening. Again it was found that both listener groups benefited equally from binaural listening over monaural listening.

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    MSc Thesis of Claudia Breit Sprecher - The effect of reverberation on speech recognition in hearing-impaired and normal-hearing listeners

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    Study partners

    This study was the MSc thesis work of Claudia Breitsprecher, which was carried out in collaboration with the Centre for Applied Hearing Research (CAHR) at the Technical University of Denmark.