Unilateral and bilateral hearing aids, spatial release from masking and auditory acclimatization.
The benefit of wearing hearing aids in multitalker, reverberant listening environments was evaluated in a study of speech-on-speech masking with two groups of listeners with hearing loss (younger/older). Listeners selectively attended a known spatial location in two room conditions (low/high reverberation) and identified target speech in the presence of two competing talkers that were either co-located or symmetrically spatially separated from the target. The amount of spatial release from masking (SRM) with bilateral aids was similar to that when listening unaided at or near an equivalent sensation level and was negatively correlated with the amount of hearing loss. When using a single aid, SRM was reduced and was related to the level of the stimulus in the unaided ear. Increased reverberation also reduced SRM in all listening conditions. Results suggest a complex interaction between hearing loss, hearing aid use, reverberation, and performance in auditory selective attention tasks.