Current standards involving technical specification of hearing aids provide limited possibilities for assessing the influence of the spectral and temporal characteristics of the input signal, and these characteristics have a significant effect on the output signal of many recent types of hearing aids. This is particularly true of digital hearing instruments, which typically include non-linear amplification in multiple channels. Furthermore, these instruments often incorporate additional non-linear functions such as "noise reduction" and "feedback cancellation". The output signal produced by a non-linear hearing instrument relates to the characteristics of the input signal in a complex manner. Therefore, the choice of input signal significantly influences the outcome of any acoustic or psychophysical assessment of a non-linear hearing instrument. For this reason, the International Collegium for Rehabilitative Audiology (ICRA) has introduced a collection of noise signals that can be used for hearing aid testing (including real-ear measurements) and psychophysical evaluation. This paper describes the design criteria, the realisation process, and the final selection of nine test signals on a CD. Also, the spectral and temporal characteristics of these signals are documented. The ICRA noises provide a well-specified set of speech-like noises with spectra shaped according to gender and vocal effort, and with different amounts of speech modulation simulating one or more speakers. These noises can be applied as well-specified background noise in psychophysical experiments. They can also serve as test signals for the evaluation of digital hearing aids with noise reduction. It is demonstrated that the ICRA noises show the effectiveness of the noise reduction schemes. Based on these initial measurements, some initial steps are proposed to develop a standard method of technical specification of noise reduction based on the modulation characteristics. For this purpose, the sensitivity of different noise reduction schemes is compared by measurements with ICRA noises with a varying ratio between unmodulated and modulated test signals: a modulated-unmodulated ratio. It can be anticipated that this information is important to understand the differences between the different implementations of noise reduction schemes in different hearing aid models and makes.