Capturing speech perception performance in noisy listening environments is a key part in validating any hearing instrument. Traditionally audiologists have always measured this performance in noisy environments by looking at thresholds, i.e. speech reception thresholds or signal to noise ratios. More recently, there has been a change in thinking about the best way to capture this information, with equal importance being placed on listening effort as well as performance or thresholds. However, although measuring thresholds is relatively straightforward, capturing listening effort has not been as easy with no test so far being the gold standard. This team from Germany conducted a whole battery of tests on normally hearing participants with the goal of using the tests to gain more insight into those using hearing instruments. A whole test battery was compiled to measure speech understanding, listening effort and sound quality. With the exception of sound quality, all other measures used speech tests with varying signal to noise ratios and different types of background noise thus trying to simulate real-life listening environments. How the tests were scored differed, with some being performance-based (i.e. thresholds obtained) and others being perceptual, where speech is presented and the participant either determines how difficult the situation is or, alternatively, they adjust the speech to a comfortable level. This is a uniform way of determining listening effort and participants are judging their effort in the same listening situations rather than on questionnaires where situations may vary from participant to participant. The results show a robust test battery with performance decreasing and listening effort increasing as the listening situations became more challenging. The next stage is to use this with participants with hearing instruments to test its robustness with the hope of creating a validated test battery to be used in a clinical setting. 

Introducing real-life listening features into the clinical test environment: Part I: Measuring the hearing performance and evaluating the listening effort of individuals with normal hearing.
Bracker T, Opie J, Nopp P, Anderson I.
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Kerri Millward

Manchester Paediatric Cochlear Implant Programme, Manchester, UK.

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Morag Lockley

Manchester Auditory Implant Centre, Manchester, UK.

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