Dynamic range compression is a compensation strategy commonly used in modern hearing aids. Fast-acting systems respond relatively quickly to the fluctuations in the input level. This allows for more effective compression of the dynamic range of speech and hence enhanced the audibility of its low-intensity components. However, such processing also amplifies the background noise, distorts the modulation spectra of both the speech and the background, and can reduce the output signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Recently, May et al. proposed a novel SNR-aware compression strategy, in which the compression speed is adapted depending on whether speech is present or absent. Fast-acting compression is applied to speech-dominated time–frequency (T-F) units, while noise-dominated T-F units are processed using slow-acting compression. It has been shown that this strategy provides a similar effective compression of the speech dynamic range as conventional fast-acting compression, while introducing fewer distortions of the modulation spectrum of the background and providing an improved output SNR. In this study, this SNR-aware compression strategy was compared with conventional fast- and slow-acting compression in terms of speech intelligibility and subjective preference in a group of 17 hearing-impaired listeners with varying degree of hearing loss. The results show a speech intelligibility benefit of the SNR-aware compression strategy over the conventional slow-acting system. Furthermore, the SNR-aware approach demonstrates an increased subjective preference compared with both conventional fast- and slow-acting systems.
- Wide dynamic range compression
- Signal-to-noise ratio
- Hearing-aid signal processing
- Speech intelligibility
- Subjective preference