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Audiol Neurootol. 2009;14(2):106-14. doi: 10.1159/000159121. Epub 2008 Oct 2.

Speech performance and sound localization in a complex noisy environment in bilaterally implanted adult patients.

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AP-HP, Hôpital Beaujon, Service d'ORL, Clichy, France.



To evaluate speech performance, in quiet and noise, and localization ability in adult patients who had undergone bilateral and simultaneous implantation.


Prospective multi-center study.


Twenty-seven adult patients with profound or total hearing loss were bilaterally implanted in a single-stage procedure, and simultaneously activated (Med-El, Combi 40/40+). Subjects were assessed before implantation and at 3, 6 and 12 months after switch-on. Speech perception tests in monaural and binaural conditions were performed in quiet and in noise using disyllabic words, with speech coming from the front and a cocktail party background noise coming from 5 loudspeakers. Sound localization measurements were also performed in background noise coming from 5 loudspeakers positioned from -90 degrees to +90 degrees azimuth in the horizontal plane, and using a speech stimulus.


There was a bilateral advantage at 12 months in quiet (77 +/- 5.0% in bilateral condition, 67 +/- 5.3% for the better ear, p < 0.005) and in noise (signal-to-noise ratio +15 dB: 63 +/- 5.9% in bilateral condition, 55 +/- 6.9% for the better ear, p < 0.05). Considering unilateral speech scores recorded in quiet at 12 months, subjects were categorized as 'good performers' (speech comprehension score > or =60% for the better ear, n = 19) and 'poor performers' (n = 8). Subjects were also categorized as 'asymmetrical' (difference between their 2 unilateral speech scores > or =20%, n = 11) or 'symmetrical' (n = 16). The largest advantage (bilateral compared to the better ear) was obtained in poor performers: +19% compared to +7% in good performers (p < 0.05). In the group of good performers, there was a bilateral advantage only in cases of symmetrical results between the 2 ears (n = 10). In the group of poor performers, the bilateral advantage was shown in both patients with symmetrical (n = 6) and asymmetrical results (n = 2). In bilateral conditions, the sound localization ability in noise was improved compared to monaural conditions in patients with symmetrical and asymmetrical performance between the 2 ears. No preoperative factor (age, duration of deafness, use of hearing aids, etiology, etc.) could predict the asymmetrical performance, nor which ear would be the best.


This study demonstrates a bilateral advantage (at 12 months after the implantation) in speech intelligibility and sound localization in a complex noisy environment. In quiet, this bilateral advantage is shown in cases of poor performance of both ears, and in cases of good performance with symmetrical results between the 2 ears. No preoperative factor can predict the best candidates for a simultaneous bilateral implantation.

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