The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of hearing instruments set to Desired Sensation Level version 5 (DSL v5) hearing instrument prescription algorithm targets and equipped with directional microphones and digital noise reduction (DNR) on children's sentence recognition in noise performance and loudness perception in a classroom environment.
Ten children (ages 8–17 years) with stable, congenital sensorineural hearing losses participated in the study. Participants were fitted bilaterally with behind-the-ear hearing instruments set to DSL v5 prescriptive targets. Sentence recognition in noise was evaluated using the Bamford–Kowal–Bench Speech in Noise Test (Niquette et al., 2003). Loudness perception was evaluated using a modified version of the Contour Test of Loudness Perception (Cox, Alexander, Taylor, & Gray, 1997).
Children's sentence recognition in noise performance was significantly better when using directional microphones alone or in combination with DNR than when using omnidirectional microphones alone or in combination with DNR. Children's loudness ratings for sounds above 72 dB SPL were lowest when fitted with the DSL v5 Noise prescription combined with directional microphones. DNR use showed no effect on loudness ratings.
Use of the DSL v5 Noise prescription with a directional microphone improved sentence recognition in noise performance and reduced loudness perception ratings for loud sounds relative to a typical clinical reference fitting with the DSL v5 Quiet prescription with no digital signal processing features enabled. Potential clinical strategies are discussed.