Masking release for hearing-impaired listeners: The effect of increased audibility through reduction of amplitude variability.J Acoust Soc Am. 2017 06; 141(6):4452.JA
The masking release (i.e., better speech recognition in fluctuating compared to continuous noise backgrounds) observed for normal-hearing (NH) listeners is generally reduced or absent in hearing-impaired (HI) listeners. One explanation for this lies in the effects of reduced audibility: elevated thresholds may prevent HI listeners from taking advantage of signals available to NH listeners during the dips of temporally fluctuating noise where the interference is relatively weak. This hypothesis was addressed through the development of a signal-processing technique designed to increase the audibility of speech during dips in interrupted noise. This technique acts to (i) compare short-term and long-term estimates of energy, (ii) increase the level of short-term segments whose energy is below the average energy, and (iii) normalize the overall energy of the processed signal to be equivalent to that of the original long-term estimate. Evaluations of this energy-equalizing (EEQ) technique included consonant identification and sentence reception in backgrounds of continuous and regularly interrupted noise. For HI listeners, performance was generally similar for processed and unprocessed signals in continuous noise; however, superior performance for EEQ processing was observed in certain regularly interrupted noise backgrounds.