Testing speech perception at a soft level

I have been feeling for awhile that I am not hearing well. I went for an evaluation and, I was right. Speech perception testing confirmed what I suspected. While I did fine at normal conversation, my speech perception for soft speech was poor at 56%. Hmmm.

I tried new hearing aids and when I got retested with the new aids my speech perception improved to 96%. WOW!! If I had not been tested at soft speech levels it would not have been clear that there was a problem and that things got better with new aids. I am an adult, and while I should be able to know when I am hearing well and when I am not, children are not so good at reporting listening skills.


Importance of Speech Perception Testing


I have written often about the need for lots of speech perception testing at normal and soft conversational levels in quiet and in noise, I often hear from audiologists that testing at all those levels takes a lot of time. Yes it does, not as much time as people think, but it takes time.

What is the goal of technology? The goal of technology is to improve speech perception for people with hearing loss. How are we going to know if a person is doing well with technology if we do not test?

While Real Ear measures are a critical part of evaluation of technology it does not provide any information about how a person is hearing. Even if a person is meeting target gains it does not mean that the hearing aids are set optimally for an individual. Target gains are a start.

But speech perception testing provides wonderful information that can be useful in managing technology settings or changing technology if needed. So do the testing and be sure that everyone is doing as well as they can.

I do have one complaint about my new hearing aids. They are boring gray. For a reason that is not clear to me, most hearing aid manufacturers make hearing aids for adults in very boring colors. Colors that are intended to match hair and skin tones. But I want hearing aids to be a statement – I am not embarrassed that I have a hearing loss or hearing aids. I have purple hair, why can’t I have purple hearing aids?


*featured image courtesy wikimedia commons

About Jane Madell

Jane Madell has a consulting practice in pediatric audiology. She is an audiologist, speech-language pathologist, and LSLS auditory verbal therapist, with a BA from Emerson College and an MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin. Her 45+ years experience ranges from Deaf Nursery programs to positions at the League for the Hard of Hearing (Director), Long Island College Hospital, Downstate Medical Center, Beth Israel Medical Center/New York Eye and Ear Infirmary as director of the Hearing and Learning Center and Cochlear Implant Center. Jane has taught at the University of Tennessee, Columbia University, Downstate Medical School, and Albert Einstein Medical School, published 7 books, and written numerous books chapters and journal articles, and is a well known international lecturer.


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