Objective Assessment of Companding Architecture for Assistive Hearing Devices
Individuals with auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder (ANSD) or auditory processing disorders (APDs) often suffer from temporal and spectral processing deficits leading to degraded speech perception, especially in the presence of background noise. Evidence exists that the exaggeration of temporal and spectral cues may enhance intelligibility, although a comprehensive evaluation of envelope and spectral enhancement algorithms is currently lacking. In the present study, the effect of a companding architecture on speech perception, with and without an additional noise reduction algorithm, was investigated with sentence-level-stimuli in different background noise conditions. The companding structure was assessed objectively using the speech-to-reverberation modulation energy ratio (SRMR), which is a non-intrusive metric for speech quality and intelligibility based on a modulation spectral representation of the speech signal. Results of the present study demonstrated that the companding structure improved the predicted speech intelligibility score for all background noise conditions. Furthermore, results revealed that the application of the Minimum-Mean-Square (MMSE) noise reduction algorithm (Ephraim & Malah, IEEE Trans. Acoust, 1984, pp. 1109–1121), which was previously shown to produce lesser musical noise, can significantly improve the performance of companding structure for all Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) conditions. These results can potentially guide the choice and activation of companding structure in assistive hearing devices.
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