Extension and evaluation of a near-end listening enhancement algorithm for listeners with normal and impaired hearing
In many applications in which speech is played back via a sound reinforcement system such as public address systems and mobile phones, speech intelligibility is degraded by additive environmental noise. A possible solution to maintain high intelligibility in noise is to pre-process the speech signal based on the estimated noise power at the position of the listener. The previously proposed AdaptDRC algorithm [Schepker, Rennies, and Doclo (2015). J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 138, 2692-2706] applies both frequency shaping and dynamic range compression under an equal-power constraint, where the processing is adaptively controlled by short-term estimates of the speech intelligibility index. Previous evaluations of the algorithm have focused on normal-hearing listeners. In this study, the algorithm was extended with an adaptive gain stage under an equal-peak-power constraint, and evaluated with eleven normal-hearing and ten mildly to moderately hearing-impaired listeners. For normal-hearing listeners, average improvements in speech reception thresholds of about 4 and 8 dB compared to the unprocessed reference condition were measured for the original algorithm and its extension, respectively. For hearing-impaired listeners, the average improvements were about 2 and 6 dB, indicating that the relative improvement due to the proposed adaptive gain stage was larger for these listeners than the benefit of the original processing stages.