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Otol Neurotol. 2012 Apr;33(3):319-27. doi: 10.1097/MAO.0b013e31824296a9.

Assessment of sound quality perception in cochlear implant users during music listening.

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Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



Although cochlear implant (CI) users frequently report deterioration of sound quality when listening to music, few methods exist to quantify these subjective claims.


1) To design a novel research method for quantifying sound quality perception in CI users during music listening; 2) To validate this method by assessing one attribute of music perception, bass frequency perception, which is hypothesized to be relevant to overall musical sound quality perception.


Limitations in bass frequency perception contribute to CI-mediated sound quality deteriorations. The proposed method will quantify this deterioration by measuring CI users' impaired ability to make sound quality discriminations among musical stimuli with variable amounts of bass frequency removal.


A method commonly used in the audio industry (multiple stimulus with hidden reference and anchor [MUSHRA]) was adapted for CI users, referred to as CI-MUSHRA. CI users and normal hearing controls were presented with 7 sound quality versions of a musical segment: 5 high pass filter cutoff versions (200-, 400-, 600-, 800-, 1000-Hz) with decreasing amounts of bass information, an unaltered version ("hidden reference"), and a highly altered version (1,000-1,200 Hz band pass filter; "anchor"). Participants provided sound quality ratings between 0 (very poor) and 100 (excellent) for each version; ratings reflected differences in perceived sound quality among stimuli.


CI users had greater difficulty making overall sound quality discriminations as a function of bass frequency loss than normal hearing controls, as demonstrated by a significantly weaker correlation between bass frequency content and sound quality ratings. In particular, CI users could not perceive sound quality difference among stimuli missing up to 400 Hz of bass frequency information.


Bass frequency impairments contribute to sound quality deteriorations during music listening for CI users. CI-MUSHRA provided a systematic and quantitative assessment of this reduced sound quality. Although the effects of bass frequency removal were studied here, we advocate CI-MUSHRA as a user-friendly and versatile research tool to measure the effects of a wide range of acoustic manipulations on sound quality perception in CI users.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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