The effect of hearing aid microphone mode on performance in an auditory orienting task

Brimijoin, W. Owen and Whitmer, William M. and McShefferty, David and Akeroyd, Michael A. (2014) The effect of hearing aid microphone mode on performance in an auditory orienting task. Ear and Hearing, 35 (5). e204-e212. ISSN 1538-4667

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Although directional microphones on a hearing aid provide a signal-to-noise ratio benefit in a noisy background, the amount of benefit is dependent on how close the signal of interest is to the front of the user. It is assumed that when the signal of interest is off-axis, users can reorient themselves to the signal to make use of the directional microphones to improve signal-to-noise ratio. The present study tested this assumption by measuring the head-orienting behavior of bilaterally fit hearing-impaired individuals with their microphones set to omnidirectional and directional modes. The authors hypothesized that listeners using directional microphones would have greater difficulty in rapidly and accurately orienting to off-axis signals than they would when using omnidirectional microphones.

DESIGN:

The authors instructed hearing-impaired individuals to turn and face a female talker in simultaneous surrounding male-talker babble. Participants pressed a button when they felt they were accurately oriented in the direction of the female talker. Participants completed three blocks of trials with their hearing aids in omnidirectional mode and three blocks in directional mode, with mode order randomized. Using a Vicon motion tracking system, the authors measured head position and computed fixation error, fixation latency, trajectory complexity, and proportion of misorientations.

RESULTS:

Results showed that for larger off-axis target angles, listeners using directional microphones took longer to reach their targets than they did when using omnidirectional microphones, although they were just as accurate. They also used more complex movements and frequently made initial turns in the wrong direction. For smaller off-axis target angles, this pattern was reversed, and listeners using directional microphones oriented more quickly and smoothly to the targets than when using omnidirectional microphones.

CONCLUSIONS:

The authors argue that an increase in movement complexity indicates a switch from a simple orienting movement to a search behavior. For the most off-axis target angles, listeners using directional microphones appear to not know which direction to turn, so they pick a direction at random and simply rotate their heads until the signal becomes more audible. The changes in fixation latency and head orientation trajectories suggest that the decrease in off-axis audibility is a primary concern in the use of directional microphones, and listeners could experience a loss of initial target speech while turning toward a new signal of interest. If hearing-aid users are to receive maximum directional benefit in noisy environments, both adaptive directionality in hearing aids and clinical advice on using directional microphones should take head movement and orientation behavior into account.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Hearing aids, Directional microphones, Head movement, Sound localization
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Identification Number: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000053
Depositing User: Akeroyd, Professor Michael
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2018 08:52
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2018 08:57
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/50838

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