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Effect of Signal-to-Noise Ratio on Directional Microphone Benefit and Preference
07 August 2020 (online)
This study examined speech intelligibility and preferences for omnidirectional and directional microphone hearing aid processing across a range of signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs). A primary motivation for the study was to determine whether SNR might be used to represent distance between talker and listener in automatic directionality algorithms based on scene analysis. Participants were current hearing aid users who either had experience with omnidirectional microphone hearing aids only or with manually switchable omnidirectional/directional hearing aids. Using IEEE/Harvard sentences from a front loudspeaker and speech-shaped noise from three loudspeakers located behind and to the sides of the listener, the directional advantage (DA) was obtained at 11 SNRs ranging from -15 dB to +15 dB in 3 dB steps. Preferences for the two microphone modes at each of the 11 SNRs were also obtained using concatenated IEEE sentences presented in the speech-shaped noise. Results revealed that a DA was observed across a broad range of SNRs, although directional processing provided the greatest benefit within a narrower range of SNRs. Mean data suggested that microphone preferences were determined largely by the DA, such that the greater the benefit to speech intelligibility provided by the directional microphones, the more likely the listeners were to prefer that processing mode. However, inspection of the individual data revealed that highly predictive relationships did not exist for most individual participants. Few preferences for omnidirectional processing were observed. Overall, the results did not support the use of SNR to estimate the effects of distance between talker and listener in automatic directionality algorithms.