Effect of Audibility and Suprathreshold Deficits on Speech Recognition for Listeners With Unilateral Hearing Loss

Tim J.M. Bost, Niek J. Versfeld, S. Theo Goverts

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVES: We examined the influence of impaired processing (audibility and suprathreshold processes) on speech recognition in cases of sensorineural hearing loss. The influence of differences in central, or top-down, processing was reduced by comparing the performance of both ears in participants with a unilateral hearing loss (UHL). We examined the influence of reduced audibility and suprathreshold deficits on speech recognition in quiet and in noise. DESIGN: We measured speech recognition in quiet and stationary speech-shaped noise with consonant-vowel-consonant words and digital triplets in groups of adults with UHL (n = 19), normal hearing (n = 15), and bilateral hearing loss (n = 9). By comparing the scores of the unaffected ear (UHL+) and the affected ear (UHL-) in the UHL group, we were able to isolate the influence of peripheral hearing loss from individual top-down factors such as cognition, linguistic skills, age, and sex. RESULTS: Audibility is a very strong predictor for speech recognition in quiet. Audibility has a less pronounced influence on speech recognition in noise. We found that, for the current sample of listeners, more speech information is required for UHL- than for UHL+ to achieve the same performance. For digit triplets at 80 dBA, the speech recognition threshold in noise (SRT) for UHL- is on average 5.2 dB signal to noise ratio (SNR) poorer than UHL+. Analysis using the speech intelligibility index (SII) indicates that on average 2.1 dB SNR of this decrease can be attributed to suprathreshold deficits and 3.1 dB SNR to audibility. Furthermore, scores for speech recognition in quiet and in noise for UHL+ are comparable to those of normal-hearing listeners. CONCLUSIONS: Our data showed that suprathreshold deficits in addition to audibility play a considerable role in speech recognition in noise even at intensities well above hearing threshold.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1025-1034
Number of pages10
JournalEar and hearing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


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