Evaluation of near-end speech enhancement under equal-loudness constraint for listeners with normal-hearing and mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
Four algorithms designed to enhance the intelligibility of speech when noise is added after processing were evaluated under the constraint that the speech should have the same loudness before and after processing, as determined using a loudness model. The algorithms applied spectral modifications and two of them included dynamic-range compression. On average, the methods with dynamic-range compression required the least level adjustment to equate loudness for the unprocessed and processed speech. Subjects with normal-hearing (experiment 1) and mild-to-moderate hearing loss (experiment 2) were tested using unmodified and enhanced speech presented in speech-shaped noise (SSN) and a competing speaker (CS). The results showed (a) the algorithms with dynamic-range compression yielded the largest intelligibility gains in both experiments and for both types of background; (b) the algorithms without dynamic-range compression either yielded benefit only with the SSN or yielded no consistent benefit; (c) speech reception thresholds for unprocessed speech were higher for hearing-impaired than for normal-hearing subjects, by about 2 dB for the SSN and 6 dB for the CS. It is concluded that the enhancement methods incorporating dynamic-range compression can improve intelligibility under the equal-loudness constraint for both normal-hearing and hearing-impaired subjects and for both steady and fluctuating backgrounds.