Perception of emotional speech by listeners with hearing aids

Huiwen Goy, M. Kathleen Pichora-Fuller, Gurjit Singh, Frank A. Russo

Abstract


A talker’s emotional state is one important type of information carried by the speech signal. While the frequency and amplitude compression performed by hearing aids may make speech easier to understand, little is known about how such processing affects users’ perception of emotion in speech. This study investigated how hearing aid use affected the perception of emotion in speech and the recognition of speech spoken with emotion. Listeners were hearing aid users who were tested with and without their aids in separate sessions. They heard sentences spoken by a young female actor portraying different vocal emotions, and were asked to report the keyword and identify the portrayed emotion. The use of hearing aids improved listeners’ word recognition performance from 43% correct (unaided) to 68% correct (aided). In contrast, hearing aids did not improve listeners’ emotion identification (38% unaided, compared to 40% aided). Emotions that were more easily identified were not necessarily the same emotions associated with better word recognition. We conclude that the types of information carried by the speech signal are differentially affected by hearing aids; in this case, hearing aids improved the recognition of what was spoken but not the identification of vocal emotion.


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