Measuring the impact of hearing aid use on cognitive load
In a series of studies, we investigate how hearing loss, compensated by hearing aids, affects the cognitive load across a wide range of listening conditions. We also work on the development of new outcome measures to evaluate the impact of the signal processing of hearing aids on cognitive load using EEG and in/around-Ear-EEG.
In our everyday lives, we are dependent on selectively attending to our conversational partner or following a particular conversation amid a crowd of unwanted sounds. In these listening conditions, we are constantly forced to allocate our attentional resources to auditory and cognitive information processing. Specifically, we tend to utilize more attentional resources when the complexity of listening environments increases and listening becomes more challenging. This results in increased mental effort and cognitive load.
For example, following a conversation in a non-native (or not well-known) language requires greater mental effort - an index of cognitive load from us to decipher it. Furthermore, hearing loss has a strong effect on invested cognitive load, as listeners with hearing loss may face real difficulties in more complex listening conditions.
Investigating changes in cognitive load
Within the field of cognitive hearing science, brain responses have been demonstrated to be modulated by auditory attention and have been widely used to assess the cognitive load. In a series of studies, we use electrophysiological (EEG) and in/around-Ear-EEG signals to investigate changes in mental effort and cognitive load across a wide range of everyday listening conditions in listeners with varying degree of hearing impairment. Furthermore, we aim to investigate whether or not hearing devices and their signal processing help hearing impaired listeners to reduce cognitive load, and consequently to better focus their attention in different listening environments.
Our recent work demonstrated that electrophysiological (EEG) signals can be applied to identify a benefit of the hearing-aid signal processing on mental effort and cognitive load.
Petersen, Eline Borch, et al. "Neural tracking of attended versus ignored speech is differentially affected by hearing loss." American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology (2016).