Hearing aid gain prescriptions balance restoration of auditory nerve mean-rate and spike-timing representations of speech
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Linear and nonlinear amplification schemes for hearing aids have thus far been developed and evaluated based on perceptual criteria such as speech intelligibility, sound comfort, and loudness equalization. Finding amplification schemes that optimize all of these perceptual metrics has proven difficult. Using a physiological model, Bruce et al.  investigated the effects of single-band gain adjustments to linear amplification prescriptions. Optimal gain adjustments for model auditory-nerve fiber responses to speech sentences from the TIMIT database were dependent on whether the error metric included the spike timing information (i.e., a time-resolution of several microseconds) or the mean firing rates (i.e., a time-resolution of several milliseconds). Results showed that positive gain adjustments are required to optimize the mean firing rate responses, whereas negative gain adjustments tend to optimize spike timing information responses. In this paper we examine the results in more depth using a similar optimization scheme applied to a synthetic vowel /E/. It is found that negative gain adjustments (i.e., below the linear gain prescriptions) minimize the spread of synchrony and deviation of the phase response to vowel formants in responses containing spike-timing information. In contrast, positive gain adjustments (i.e., above the linear gain prescriptions) normalize the distribution of mean discharge rates in the auditory nerve responses. Thus, linear amplification prescriptions appear to find a balance between restoring the spike-timing and mean-rate information in auditory-nerve responses.
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