Mackenzie, Emma and Lutman, Mark E.
Speech recognition and comfort using hearing instruments with adaptive directional characteristics in asymmetric listening conditions
Ear and Hearing, 26, (6), . (doi:10.1097/01.aud.0000188185.78217.c5).
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Objective: Hearing instruments with adaptive directional microphone systems attempt to maximize speech-to-noise ratio (SNR) and thereby improve speech recognition in noisy backgrounds. When instruments with adaptive systems are fitted bilaterally, there is the potential for adverse effects as they operate independently and may give confusing cues or disturbing effects. The present study compared speech recognition performance in 16 listeners fitted bilaterally with the Phonak Claro hearing instrument using omni-directional, fixed directional, and adaptive directional microphone settings as well as mixed microphone settings (an omni-directional microphone on one side and an adaptive directional microphone on the other).
Design: Under anechoic conditions, speech was always presented from a loudspeaker directly in front of the listener (0 degree azimuth) whereas noise was presented from one or two loudspeakers arranged either symmetrically (0, 180, 90 + 270 degrees) or asymmetrically (170 + 240 degrees and 120 + 190 degrees) in the horizontal plane. Adaptive sentence recognition in noise measurement was supplemented by quality ratings.
Results: With symmetrical omni-directional settings (Omni/Omni), performance was poorer than a control group of 14 listeners with normal hearing tested unaided: Aided listeners required 4.3 dB more favorable SNR for criterion performance. In all loudspeaker arrangements in which directional characteristics could be exploited, performance with symmetrical adaptive microphones (Adapt/Adapt) was similar to the control group. The mixed microphone settings did not appear to confer any particular disadvantage for speech recognition from their asymmetric nature, always giving scores significantly better than Omni/Omni. Quality rating scores were consistent with speech recognition performance, showing benefits in terms of clarity and comfort for the Adapt/Adapt and Fixed/Fixed microphone conditions over the Omni/Omni and mixed microphone conditions wherever directional characteristics could be used. Similarly, the mixed microphone conditions were rated more comfortable and quieter for the noise than Omni/Omni.
Conclusions: It is concluded that bilateral hearing instruments with adaptive directional microphones confer benefits in terms of speech recognition in noise and sound quality. Independence of the two adaptive control systems does not appear to cause untoward effects.
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