Niels Henrik Pontoppidan

Research Area Manager/ Research Engineer

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The Behind-The-Ear (BTE) hearing-aid style is very popular these days. With this style, monaural spatial acoustic cues are essentially bypassed, as the microphone is situated above the ear. In this study we tested whether providing pinna cues to hearing-aid users is a worthwhile goal.

Candidature phase

To begin with, 31 mild-to-moderately hearing-impaired test subjects were tested on a range of basic measures of auditory and cognitive function, and on two complex spatial listening tasks (localisation and spatial speech recognition) under ‘ideal’ listening conditions. This part of the study revealed 22 good-to-decent candidates for pinna-cue-preserving hearing aids. However, the basic measures failed to predict which test subjects were candidates for pinna cues.


Benefit phase

Seventeen of the pinna-cue candidates completed a field test, in which they wore bilaterally fitted experimental hearing aids. These had a microphone in the traditional BTE position and a microphone positioned at the entrance of the ear canal (CIC). The active microphone position was software selectable.

Using a blinded crossover design, each microphone position was enabled for a 4-5 week period. At the end of each test period the test subjects completed the complex listening tests from the first phase and filled in questionnaires. The results showed that only a handful of these carefully selected test subjects obtained consistent benefit from pinna-cue preservation. This indicates that for the majority of users, fitting BTE hearing aids does not compromise spatial hearing, relative to fitting CIC hearing aids.

Further reading

Jensen NS, Neher T, Laugesen S, Johannesson RB, Kragelund L (2013). Laboratory and Field Study of the Potential Benefits of Pinna Cue-Preserving Hearing Aids. Trends in Amplification, 17(3), p.171-188.

Neher T, Laugesen S, Jensen NS, Kragelund L (2011). Can basic auditory and cognitive measures predict hearing-impaired listeners’ localization and spatial speech recognition abilities? Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 130(3), p. 1542-1558.

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