Open Conference Systems, Acoustics Week in Canada 2016

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Acoustic factors related to emotional responses to sound
Erin Margaret Picou

Last modified: 2016-08-24


Sounds can have a profound impact on the way people think and feel about the world around them.  However, recent work suggests that hearing loss alters the way people feel about sounds.  Specifically, people with hearing loss are less affected by sounds than their peers with normal hearing.  Moreover, increasing the overall level of sounds does not restore emotional responses.  Instead, when the volume is increased, listeners with hearing loss rate all sounds, even the “pleasant” ones, as unpleasant.  Because hearing aids increase the overall level of sounds, there is significant clinical and scientific interest in evaluating the potential effect of hearing aids on emotional responses to sounds, which was the purpose of this study.  Adults with mild to moderately-severe sensorineural hearing loss listened to a subset of sounds from a published corpus of common, non-speech sounds.  Participants rated the degree to which a sound made them feel pleasant/unpleasant and also excited /calm.  Participants rated each sound at a moderate (60 dB SPL) and a high (80 dB SPL) intensity.  In addition, participants rated moderate intensity stimuli while wearing bilateral hearing aids programmed with conventional processing and non-linear frequency compression.  A control group of participants with normal hearing was tested in the unaided conditions. Participants made subjective ratings using a published visual analog scale and a computer keypad. Consistent with previous work, listeners with hearing loss exhibited a reduced range of emotional responses.  Neither hearing aid technology improved the range of responses.  However, for specific signals, there were positive effects of hearing aids, particularly non-linear frequency compression. Some of the specific effects of hearing aid signal processing can be explained based on the acoustics of the stimuli and of the hearing aid technologies.  These acoustic relationships will be discussed, as well as implications for future technological developments.

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