Benefit from different beamforming schemes in bilateral hearing aid users: Do binaural hearing abilities matter?
Using a hearing aid simulator and virtual acoustics, Neher et al. (2017) recently showed that binaural hearing abilities influence speech-in-noise reception through different bilateral directional processing schemes. The current study aimed to extend this finding to real acoustic environments and commercial devices. Three beamforming schemes were tested – they differed in signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) improvement and binaural cue preservation. The participants were 38 elderly experienced hearing aid users. Speech understanding and localisation performance were measured. Binaural hearing abilities were assessed using the binaural intelligibility level difference (BILD). The analyses revealed a clear effect of the BILD on speech understanding in noise, but no interaction with the beamformer conditions. Greater SNR improvement was generally beneficial. In contrast, localisation of static and dynamic stimuli was more accurate when low-frequency binaural cues were preserved. Furthermore, the interaction with the BILD was marginally significant for dynamic stimuli (p = 0.054). Altogether, these results suggest that when selecting directional processing schemes in bilateral hearing aid fittings both speech understanding and aspects of spatial awareness perception should be considered.
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