Effect of Channel Interaction on Vocal Cue Perception in Cochlear Implant Users.

Speech intelligibility in multitalker settings is challenging for most cochlear implant (CI) users. One possibility for this limitation is the suboptimal representation of vocal cues in implant processing, such as the fundamental frequency (F0), and the vocal tract length (VTL). Previous studies suggested that while F0 perception depends on spectrotemporal cues, VTL perception relies largely on spectral cues. To investigate how spectral smearing in CIs affects vocal cue perception in speech-on-speech (SoS) settings, adjacent electrodes were simultaneously stimulated using current steering in 12 Advanced Bionics users to simulate channel interaction. In current steering, two adjacent electrodes are simultaneously stimulated forming a channel of parallel stimulation. Three such stimulation patterns were used: Sequential (one current steering channel), Paired (two channels), and Triplet stimulation (three channels). F0 and VTL just-noticeable differences (JNDs; Task 1), in addition to SoS intelligibility (Task 2) and comprehension (Task 3), were measured for each stimulation strategy. In Tasks 2 and 3, four maskers were used: the same female talker, a male voice obtained by manipulating both F0 and VTL (F0+VTL) of the original female speaker, a voice where only F0 was manipulated, and a voice where only VTL was manipulated. JNDs were measured relative to the original voice for the F0, VTL, and F0+VTL manipulations. When spectral smearing was increased from Sequential to Triplet, a significant deterioration in performance was observed for Tasks 1 and 2, with no differences between Sequential and Paired stimulation. Data from Task 3 were inconclusive. These results imply that CI users may tolerate certain amounts of channel interaction without significant reduction in performance on tasks relying on voice perception. This points to possibilities for using parallel stimulation in CIs for reducing power consumption.


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