The Effect of Hearing Aid Noise Reduction on Listening Effort in Hearing-Impaired Adults

Publication Date


Document Type



Ear and Hearing: November/December 2014 - Volume 35 - Issue 6 - p 600–610 doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000028


Objectives: The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the effect of a noise-reduction (NR) algorithm on the listening effort hearing-impaired participants expend on a speech in noise task.

Design: Twelve hearing-impaired listeners fitted with behind-the-ear hearing aids with a fast-acting modulation–based NR algorithm participated in this study. A dual-task paradigm was used to measure listening effort with and without the NR enabled in the hearing aid. The primary task was a sentence-in-noise task presented at fixed overall speech performance levels of 76% (moderate listening condition) and 50% (difficult listening condition) correct performance, and the secondary task was a visual-tracking test. Participants also completed measures of working memory (Reading Span test), and processing speed (Digit Symbol Substitution Test) ability.

Results: Participants’ speech recognition in noise scores did not significantly change with the NR algorithm activated in the hearing aid in either listening condition. The NR algorithm significantly decreased listening effort, but only in the more difficult listening condition. Last, there was a tendency for participants with faster processing speeds to expend less listening effort with the NR algorithm when listening to speech in background noise in the difficult listening condition.

Conclusions: The NR algorithm reduced the listening effort adults with hearing loss must expend to understand speech in noise.