Development of a music perception test for adult hearing-aid users

21 May 2012

The purpose of this research was twofold: firstly, to develop a music perception test (MPT) for hearing-aid users, and secondly, to evaluate the influence of non-linear frequency compression (NFC) on music perception with the use of the self-compiled test. This article focuses on the description of the development and validation of the MPT. To date, the main direction in frequency-lowering hearing-aid studies has been in relation to speech perception abilities. As hearing-aid technology has improved, interest has grown in musical perception as a dimension that could improve hearing-aid users’ quality of life. The MPT was designed to evaluate different aspects of rhythm, timbre, pitch and melody. The development of the MPT could be described as design-based. Phase 1 of the study included test development and recording, while phase 2 entailed presentation of stimuli to normal hearing listeners (n=15) and hearing-aid users (n=4). Based on the findings of phase 2, item analysis was performed to eliminate or change stimuli that resulted in high error rates. During phase 3 the adapted version of the test was performed on a smaller group of normal hearing listeners (n=4) and 20 hearing-aid users. Results proved that adults with normal hearing as well as adults using hearing aids were able to complete all the sub-tests of the MPT, although hearing-aid users scored lower on the various sub-tests than normal hearing listeners. For the rhythm section of the MPT normal hearing listeners scored on average 93.8% versus 75.5% of hearing-aid users; for the timbre section the scores were 83% versus 62.3% respectively. Normal hearing listeners obtained an average score of 86.3% for the pitch section and 88.2% for the melody section, compared with the 70.8% and 61.9% respectively obtained by hearing-aid users. This implies that the MPT can be used successfully for assessment of music perception in hearing-aid users within the South African context and may therefore result in more effective hearing-aid fittings taking place. The test can be used as a counselling tool to assist audiologists and patients in understanding the problems they experience regarding music perception, and might be used for future musical training in areas where participants experience problems in customising individual fittings.