Music Perception of Cochlear Implant Users Compared with that of Hearing Aid Users


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Abstract

Objectives:To investigate the music perception skills of adult cochlear implant (CI) users in comparison with hearing aid (HA) users who have similar levels of hearing impairment. It was hypothesized that the HA users would perform better than the CI recipients on tests involving pitch, instrument, and melody perception, but similarly for rhythm perception.Design:Fifteen users of the Nucleus CI system and 15 HA users participated in a series of music perception tests. All subjects were postlingually deafened adults, with the HA subjects being required to meet the current audiological criteria for CI candidacy. A music test battery was designed for the study incorporating four major tasks: (1) discrimination of 38 pairs of rhythms; (2) pitch ranking of one-octave, half-octave, and quarter-octave intervals; (3) instrument recognition incorporating three subtests, each with 12 different instruments or ensembles; and (4) recognition of 10 familiar melodies. Stimuli were presented via direct audio input at comfortable presentation levels. The test battery was administered to each subject on two separate occasions, approximately 4 mo apart.Results:The results from the rhythm test were 93% correct for the CI group and 94% correct for the HA group; these scores were not significantly different. For the pitch test, there was a significant difference between the HA group and the CI group (p < 0.001), with higher mean scores recorded by the HA group for all three interval sizes. The CI subject group was unable to rank pitches a quarter-octave apart, only scoring at chance level for this interval size. In the instrument recognition test, although there was no significant difference between the mean scores of the two groups, both groups obtained significantly higher scores for the subtest incorporating single instrument stimuli than those incorporating multiple instrumentations (p < 0.001). In the melody test, there was a significant difference between the implantees’ mean score of 52% correct and the HA group’s mean of 91% (p < 0.001).Conclusions:As hypothesized, results from the two groups were almost identical for the rhythm test, with the HA group performing significantly better than the CI group on the pitch and melody tests. However, there was no difference between the groups in their ability to identify musical instruments or ensembles. The results of this study indicate that HA users with similar levels of hearing loss perform at least equal to, if not better than, CI users on these music perception tests. However, despite the differences between scores obtained by the CI and HA subject groups, both these subject groups were largely unable to achieve accurate or effective music perception, regardless of the device they used.

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