The goal of this research program is to establish a better framework for the use of loudness data in hearing-aid design and ultimately hearing-aid fitting. Several hearing-aid fitting algorithms attempt to restore normal loudness or reduce peaks in loudness, but there is no consensus on appropriate procedures that would enable researchers, engineers or clinicians to verify the extent to which these goals were met. Furthermore, the lack of data on which to base the rules governing the loudness of broadband sounds in listeners with normal hearing (NH) makes it impossible to provide an adequate specification of what restoration of normal loudness in listeners with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) would entail. We will explore the use of perceptual weights to establish the contribution of individual frequency bands to the total loudness of broadband sounds. This methodology will allow us to test the basic assumptions underlying current loudness models. The proposed studies are grouped under three specific aims. The first will test the hypothesis that the relation among results obtained with different measurement procedures are independent of the degree of hearing loss. The goal of this aim is to achieve consensus on methods to measure loudness.
The second aim will use perceptual weights to test the hypothesis that the contribution of specific frequencies to the total loudness of broadband sounds is influenced by hearing loss. The goal is to explore the effects of level and hearing loss on the specific loudness of broadband sounds, including noise with the long-term spectrum of speech.
The final aim will apply methods and insights developed in the course of work on the first two aims to measurements of loudness experienced by new hearing-aid users without and with the amounts of amplification provided by their hearing aids. The studies are designed to assess the extent to which the loudness goals of hearing-aid fitting strategies are met and to explore the effect of acclimatization to hearing aids on loudness perception. The current ANSI standard model of loudness and variations of it guided the design of experiments. The proposed studies are expected to lead to improvements of existing models that will better predict the loudness percepts of individuals with hearing loss, thus potentially leading to better intervention strategies.

Public Health Relevance

The purpose of this research program is to overcome problems that impede the use of loudness data in the design and fitting of hearing aids. Major problems include a lack of consensus on how to reliably measure loudness in ways that are meaningful to patients and a poor understanding of the rules governing the loudness of broadband sounds in listeners with normal hearing and with hearing loss. The work has the potential to lead to better loudness measurements, better loudness models and ultimately better procedures for fitting hearing aids.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Auditory System Study Section (AUD)
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Donahue, Amy
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Father Flanagan's Boys' Home
Boys Town
United States
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Jesteadt, Walt; Walker, Sara M; Ogun, Oluwaseye A et al. (2017) Relative contributions of specific frequency bands to the loudness of broadband sounds. J Acoust Soc Am 142:1597
Trevino, Andrea C; Jesteadt, Walt; Neely, Stephen T (2016) Development of a multi-category psychometric function to model categorical loudness measurements. J Acoust Soc Am 140:2571
Trevino, Andrea C; Jesteadt, Walt; Neely, Stephen T (2016) Modeling the Individual Variability of Loudness Perception with a Multi-Category Psychometric Function. Adv Exp Med Biol 894:155-164
Joshi, Suyash Narendra; Wróblewski, Marcin; Schmid, Kendra K et al. (2016) Effects of relative and absolute frequency in the spectral weighting of loudness. J Acoust Soc Am 139:373-83
Jesteadt, Walt; Valente, Daniel L; Joshi, Suyash N et al. (2014) Perceptual weights for loudness judgments of six-tone complexes. J Acoust Soc Am 136:728-35