Hearing aids usually have two microphones on the top side of the device, sitting just above and behind the ear. While these microphones do pick up sound and send it into the hearing aids, it is different from how we usually hear sounds. It can compromise on sound quality, and in particular, sound localisation, or the ability to know where a sound is coming from.
The M&RIE device provides an additional microphone in the ear canal, as well as the two above the ear, to better replicate the natural transmission of sound to the ear.
In this study, devices with the M&RIE receivers were compared to devices with standard receivers in several listening conditions to replicate and validate claims made by the manufacturer. These claims suggested that people who experience mild-to-moderate hearing loss would find benefits in localisation, sound quality and listening effort when using the M&RIE device.
Eleven participants with mild to moderate hearing loss completed the research appointment at NAL. This involved a hearing assessment and the fitting of multiple pairs of hearing aids. After fitting, participants were asked to complete several challenging listening tasks in order to assess the performance of the devices.
A summary of the results is, as follows.
Participants in this study were significantly better at telling what direction sounds come from when using the M&RIE device, compared to the standard receivers. They also made fewer mistakes about whether a sound was coming from in front or behind them, which is very important from a safety perspective, e.g., when crossing the road or in traffic. Localisation performance with the M&RIE was like their performance without hearing aids on, making it closer to natural listening.
Two thirds of participants preferred the sound quality of the M&RIE devices over the standard devices, when listening to someone speaking in noisy scenarios, with more than 80% of participants preferring M&RIE in the noisiest scenario – the busy food court.
Finally, 90% participants felt that they used less effort to listen to a person saying sentences in background noise, when using the M&RIE devices, compared to listening without a hearing aid.
These results confirm the claims made by GN Resound, that the M&RIE device can provide improved sound localisation ability, sound quality, and decrease listening effort for people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.