Spectral and Temporal Cues in Cochlear Implant Speech Perception

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Taking advantage of the flexibility in the number of stimulating electrodes and the stimulation rate in a modern cochlear implant, the present study evaluated relative contributions of spectral and temporal cues to cochlear implant speech perception.


Four experiments were conducted by using a Research Interface Box in five MED-EL COMBI 40+ cochlear implant users. Experiment 1 varied the number of electrodes from four to twelve or the maximal number of available active electrodes while keeping a constant stimulation rate at 1000 Hz per electrode. Experiment 2 varied the stimulation rate from 1000 to 4000 Hz per electrode on four pairs of fixed electrodes. Experiment 3 covaried the number of stimulating electrodes and the stimulation rate to study the trade-off between spectral and temporal cues. Experiment 4 studied the effects of envelope extraction on speech perception and listening preference, including half-wave rectification, full-wave rectification, and the Hilbert transform. Vowels, consonants, and HINT sentences in quiet, as well as with a competing female voice served as test materials.


Experiment 1 found significant improvement in all speech tests with a higher number of stimulating electrodes. Experiment 2 found a significant advantage of the high stimulation rate only on consonant recognition and sentence recognition in noise. Experiment 3 found an almost linear trade-off between the number of stimulation electrodes and the stimulation rate for consonant and sentence recognition in quiet, but not for vowel and sentence recognition in noise. Experiment 4 found significantly better performance with the Hilbert transform and the full-wave rectification than the half-wave rectification. In addition, envelope extraction with the Hilbert transform produced the highest rating on subjective judgment of sound quality.


Consistent with previous studies, the present result from the five MED-EL subjects showed that (1) the temporal envelope cues from a limited number of channels are sufficient to support high levels of phoneme and sentence recognition in quiet but not for speech recognition in a competing voice, (2) consonant recognition relies more on temporal cues while vowel recognition relies more on spectral cues, (3) spectral and temporal cues can be traded to some degree to produce similar performance in cochlear implant speech recognition, and (4) the Hilbert envelope improves both speech intelligibility and quality in cochlear implants.

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