A Comparison of Two Methods for Measuring Listening Effort As Part of an Audiologic Test Battery.
BACKGROUND Recently there has been interest in using subjective ratings as a measure of perceived effort during speech recognition in noise. Perceived effort may be an indicator of cognitive load. Thus, subjective effort ratings during speech recognition in noise may covary both with signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and individual cognitive capacity. PURPOSE The present study investigated the relation between subjective ratings of the effort involved in listening to speech in noise, speech recognition performance, and individual working memory (WM) capacity in hearing impaired hearing aid users. RESEARCH DESIGN In two experiments, participants with hearing loss rated perceived effort during aided speech perception in noise. Noise type and SNR were manipulated in both experiments, and in the second experiment hearing aid compression release settings were also manipulated. Speech recognition performance was measured along with WM capacity. STUDY SAMPLE There were 46 participants in all with bilateral mild to moderate sloping hearing loss. In Experiment 1 there were 16 native Danish speakers (eight women and eight men) with a mean age of 63.5 yr (SD = 12.1) and average pure tone (PT) threshold of 47. 6 dB (SD = 9.8). In Experiment 2 there were 30 native Swedish speakers (19 women and 11 men) with a mean age of 70 yr (SD = 7.8) and average PT threshold of 45.8 dB (SD = 6.6). DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS A visual analog scale (VAS) was used for effort rating in both experiments. In Experiment 1, effort was rated at individually adapted SNRs while in Experiment 2 it was rated at fixed SNRs. Speech recognition in noise performance was measured using adaptive procedures in both experiments with Dantale II sentences in Experiment 1 and Hagerman sentences in Experiment 2. WM capacity was measured using a letter-monitoring task in Experiment 1 and the reading span task in Experiment 2. RESULTS In both experiments, there was a strong and significant relation between rated effort and SNR that was independent of individual WM capacity, whereas the relation between rated effort and noise type seemed to be influenced by individual WM capacity. Experiment 2 showed that hearing aid compression setting influenced rated effort. CONCLUSIONS Subjective ratings of the effort involved in speech recognition in noise reflect SNRs, and individual cognitive capacity seems to influence relative rating of noise type.