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J Acoust Soc Am. 2003 Mar;113(3):1617-30.

Speech perception, localization, and lateralization with bilateral cochlear implants.

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CRC for Cochlear Implant and Hearing Aid Innovation, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


Five bilateral cochlear implant users were tested for their localization abilities and speech understanding in noise, for both monaural and binaural listening conditions. They also participated in lateralization tasks to assess the impact of variations in interaural time delays (ITDs) and interaural level differences (ILDs) for electrical pulse trains under direct computer control. The localization task used pink noise bursts presented from an eight-loudspeaker array spanning an arc of approximately 108 degrees in front of the listeners at ear level (0-degree elevation). Subjects showed large benefits from bilateral device use compared to either side alone. Typical root-mean-square (rms) averaged errors across all eight loudspeakers in the array were about 10 degrees for bilateral device use and ranged from 20 degrees to 60 degrees using either ear alone. Speech reception thresholds (SRTs) were measured for sentences presented from directly in front of the listeners (0 degrees) in spectrally matching speech-weighted noise at either 0 degrees, +90 degrees or -90 degrees for four subjects out of five tested who could perform the task. For noise to either side, bilateral device use showed a substantial benefit over unilateral device use when noise was ipsilateral to the unilateral device. This was primarily because of monaural head-shadow effects, which resulted in robust SRT improvements (P<0.001) of about 4 to 5 dB when ipsilateral and contralateral noise positions were compared. The additional benefit of using both ears compared to the shadowed ear (i.e., binaural unmasking) was only 1 or 2 dB and less robust (P = 0.04). Results from the lateralization studies showed consistently good sensitivity to ILDs; better than the smallest level adjustment available in the implants (0.17 dB) for some subjects. Sensitivity to ITDs was moderate on the other hand, typically of the order of 100 micros. ITD sensitivity deteriorated rapidly when stimulation rates for unmodulated pulse-trains increased above a few hundred Hz but at 800 pps showed sensitivity comparable to 50-pps pulse-trains when a 50-Hz modulation was applied. In our opinion, these results clearly demonstrate important benefits are available from bilateral implantation, both for localizing sounds (in quiet) and for listening in noise when signal and noise sources are spatially separated. The data do indicate, however, that effects of interaural timing cues are weaker than those from interaural level cues and according to our psychophysical findings rely on the availability of low-rate information below a few hundred Hz.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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