Effect of Directional Microphone Technology in Hearing Aids on Neural Correlates of Listening and Memory Effort
An Electroencephalographic Study
The aim of the study was to compare the effect of different spatial noise-processing algorithms in hearing aids on listening effort and memory effort on a subjective, behavioral, and neurophysiological level using electroencephalography (EEG). Two types of directional microphone (DM) technologies for spatial noise processing were chosen: one with a wide directionality (wide DM) and another with a narrower directionality (narrow DM) to accentuate the speech source. Participants with a severe hearing loss were fitted with hearing aids and participated in two EEG experiments. In the first one, participants listened to sentences in cafeteria noise and were asked to rate the experienced listening effort. The second EEG experiment was a listening span task during which participants had to repeat sentence material and then recall the final words of the last four sentences. Subjective listening effort was lower with narrow than wide DM and EEG alpha power was reduced for the narrow DM. The results of the listening span task indicated a reduction in experienced memory effort and better memory performance. During the memory retention phase, EEG alpha level for the narrow relative to the wide DM was reduced. This effect was more pronounced during linguistically difficult sentences. This study extends previous findings, as it reveals a benefit for narrow DM in terms of cognitive performance and memory effort also on a neural level, and when speech intelligibility is almost 100%. Together, this indicates that a narrow and focused DM allows for a more efficient neurocognitive processing than a wide DM.