Although multichannel compression systems are quickly becoming integral components of programmable hearing aids, research results have not consistently demonstrated their benefit over conventional amplification. The present study examined two confounding factors that may have contributed to this inconsistency in results: alteration of temporal information and audibility of speech cues. Recognition of linearly amplified and multichannel-compressed speech was measured for listeners with mild-to-severe sensorineural hearing loss and for a control group of listeners with normal hearing. In addition to the standard speech signal, which provided both temporal and spectral information, the listener's ability to use temporal information in a multichannel compressed signal was directly tested using a signal-correlated noise (SCN) stimulus. This stimulus consisted of a time-varying speech envelope modulating a two-channel noise carrier. It preserved temporal cues but provided minimal spectral information. For each stimulus condition, short-term level measurements were used to determine the range of audible speech. Multichannel compression improved speech recognition under conditions where superior audibility was provided by the two-channel compression system over linear amplification. When audibility of both linearly amplified and multichannel-compressed speech was maximized, the multichannel compression had no significant effect on speech recognition score for speech containing both temporal and spectral cues. However, results for the SCN stimuli show that more extreme amounts of multichannel compression can reduce use of temporal information.
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