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Understanding Speech in Noise
Hearing clearly in environments with background noise can be challenging. The difficulties one has listening in background noise are generally disproportionate to any difficulties experienced in quiet, and they are often the catalyst for an initial visit to an audiologist. People with mild hearing loss often complain that speech is unclear in noisy situations, but that they have no other hearing difficulties. For people with greater degrees of hearing loss, background noise can render speech completely unintelligible, leading to frustration and isolation. There are some newer and more sophisticated ways that hearing aids may be able to help to improve quality of hearing in noisy environments:
Digital Noise Reduction (DNR) This processing is intended to reduce volume, either in the low frequencies or in specific bands, when noise is detected. Although research findings supporting the efficacy of DNR systems are mixed, they do indicate that the DNR can work to reduce annoyance and possibly improve speech recognition in the presence of non-fluctuating noise. DNR is sometimes advocated as complementary processing to directional microphones.
Digital Speech Enhancement (DSE) Current DSE processing identifies and enhances speech. DSE in hearing aids is still relatively new, and its effectiveness is largely unknown.
Directional Microphones and DSP Combining DSP with directional microphones can act to further enhance listening in noise. In some hearing aids, DSP is used to calibrate microphones, guide the way the microphones listen, automatically switch the hearing aid between listening with two microphones or one, and reducing additional circuit noise generated by the microphones.