Effects of noise and spectral resolution on vowel and consonant recognition: Acoustic and electric hearing

  • Fu Q
  • Shannon R
  • Wang X
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Current multichannel cochlear implant devices provide high levels of speech performance in quiet. However, performance deteriorates rapidly with increasing levels of background noise. The goal of this study was to investigate whether the noise susceptibility of cochlear implant users is primarily due to the loss of fine spectral information. Recognition of vowels and consonants was measured as a function of signal-to-noise ratio in four normal-hearing listeners in conditions simulating cochlear implants with both CIS and SPEAK-like strategies. Six conditions were evaluated: 3-, 4-, 8-, and 16-band processors ͑CIS-like͒, a 6/20 band processor ͑SPEAK-like͒, and unprocessed speech. Recognition scores for vowels and consonants decreased as the S/N level worsened in all conditions, as expected. Phoneme recognition threshold ͑PRT͒ was defined as the S/N at which the recognition score fell to 50% of its level in quiet. The unprocessed speech had the best PRT, which worsened as the number of bands decreased. Recognition of vowels and consonants was further measured in three Nucleus-22 cochlear implant users using either their normal SPEAK speech processor or a custom processor with a four-channel CIS strategy. The best cochlear implant user showed similar performance with the CIS strategy in quiet and in noise to that of normal-hearing listeners when listening to correspondingly spectrally degraded speech. These findings suggest that the noise susceptibility of cochlear implant users is at least partly due to the loss of spectral resolution. Efforts to improve the effective number of spectral information channels should improve implant performance in noise.

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  • Qian-Jie Fu

  • Robert V. Shannon

  • Xiaosong Wang

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