More than Speech Perception: Benefits of Amplification for Listening and Learning New Information

Hearing aid benefit is typically evaluated using speech perception under quiet and noisy listening conditions. While this approach is useful for confirming hearing aid function, it is insufficient for predicting the challenges that the user may experience in a variety of settings. The purpose of this presentation is to review recent work examining the effects of hearing loss and amplification on listening and learning. Tasks that varied in cognitive demand were administered to children and adults with mild to moderately severe hearing loss with and without amplification. Their performance was compared to that of children and adults with normal hearing. Tasks included: 1) conventional word repetition, 2) auditory lexical decision and repetition, 3) non-word detection and 4) rapid word-learning. The results revealed that, without amplification, performance for both groups decreased as the cognitive demands of the tasks increased. With amplification, performance improved significantly across tasks but benefit decreased with cognitive demand. Efforts to improve benefit by increasing amplification bandwidth or enabling frequency compression or digital noise reduction were also examined. Significant effects were observed for bandwidth only and the magnitude of the benefit increased as the difficulty of the tasks increased for both children and adults.

Learning Objectives:
1. The process of learning a new word relative to the process of perceiving a known word.
2. The effect of age and hearing loss on learning new information.
3. The benefits of amplification to listening and learning.
4. The extent to which advanced hearing aid features can enhance listening and learning.