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Muddy, muddled, or muffled? Understanding the perception of audio quality in music by hearing aid users

Bannister, Scott; Greasley, Alinka E.; Cox, Trevor J.; Akeroyd, Michael A.; Barker, Jon; Fazenda, Bruno; Firth, Jennifer; Graetzer, Simone N.; Roa Dabike, Gerardo; Vos, Rebecca R.; Whitmer, William M.

Muddy, muddled, or muffled? Understanding the perception of audio quality in music by hearing aid users Thumbnail


Scott Bannister

Alinka E. Greasley

Trevor J. Cox

Jon Barker

Bruno Fazenda

Simone N. Graetzer

Gerardo Roa Dabike

Rebecca R. Vos


Introduction: Previous work on audio quality evaluation has demonstrated a developing convergence of the key perceptual attributes underlying judgments of quality, such as timbral, spatial and technical attributes. However, across existing research there remains a limited understanding of the crucial perceptual attributes that inform audio quality evaluation for people with hearing loss, and those who use hearing aids. This is especially the case with music, given the unique problems it presents in contrast to human speech. Method: This paper presents a sensory evaluation study utilising descriptive analysis methods, in which a panel of hearing aid users collaborated, through consensus, to identify the most important perceptual attributes of music audio quality and developed a series of rating scales for future listening tests. Participants (N = 12), with a hearing loss ranging from mild to severe, first completed an online elicitation task, providing single-word terms to describe the audio quality of original and processed music samples; this was completed twice by each participant, once with hearing aids, and once without. Participants were then guided in discussing these raw terms across three focus groups, in which they reduced the term space, identified important perceptual groupings of terms, and developed perceptual attributes from these groups (including rating scales and definitions for each). Results: Findings show that there were seven key perceptual dimensions underlying music audio quality (clarity, harshness, distortion, spaciousness, treble strength, middle strength, and bass strength), alongside a music audio quality attribute and possible alternative frequency balance attributes. Discussion: We outline how these perceptual attributes align with extant literature, how attribute rating instruments might be used in future work, and the importance of better understanding the music listening difficulties of people with varied profiles of hearing loss.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 9, 2024
Online Publication Date Feb 21, 2024
Publication Date 2024
Deposit Date Mar 1, 2024
Publicly Available Date Mar 1, 2024
Journal Frontiers in Psychology
Electronic ISSN 1664-1078
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Keywords Music, hearing loss, audio quality evaluation, perception, hearing aids
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Bannister Etal 2024 (1.8 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2024 Bannister, Greasley, Cox, Akeroyd, Barker, Fazenda, Firth, Graetzer, Roa Dabike, Vos and Whitmer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY)

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