Recognition and Localization of Speech by Adult Cochlear Implant Recipients Wearing a Digital Hearing Aid in the Nonimplanted Ear (Bimodal Hearing)

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Abstract

Background:

The use of bilateral amplification is now common clinical practice for hearing aid users but not for cochlear implant recipients. In the past, most cochlear implant recipients were implanted in one ear and wore only a monaural cochlear implant processor. There has been recent interest in benefits arising from bilateral stimulation that may be present for cochlear implant recipients. One option for bilateral stimulation is the use of a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the opposite nonimplanted ear (bimodal hearing).

Purpose:

This study evaluated the effect of wearing a cochlear implant in one ear and a digital hearing aid in the opposite ear on speech recognition and localization.

Research Design:

A repeated-measures correlational study was completed.

Study Sample:

Nineteen adult Cochlear Nucleus 24 implant recipients participated in the study.

Intervention:

The participants were fit with a Widex Senso Vita 38 hearing aid to achieve maximum audibility and comfort within their dynamic range.

Data Collection and Analysis:

Soundfield thresholds, loudness growth, speech recognition, localization, and subjective questionnaires were obtained six-eight weeks after the hearing aid fitting. Testing was completed in three conditions: hearing aid only, cochlear implant only, and cochlear implant and hearing aid (bimodal). All tests were repeated four weeks after the first test session. Repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to analyze the data. Significant effects were further examined using pairwise comparison of means or in the case of continuous moderators, regression analyses. The speechrecognition and localization tasks were unique, in that a speech stimulus presented from a variety of roaming azimuths (140 degree loudspeaker array) was used.

Results:

Performance in the bimodal condition was significantly better for speech recognition and localization compared to the cochlear implant-only and hearing aid-only conditions. Performance was also different between these conditions when the location (i.e., side of the loudspeaker array that presented the word) was analyzed. In the bimodal condition, the speech-recognition and localization tasks were equal regardless of which side of the loudspeaker array presented the word, while performance was significantly poorer for the monaural conditions (hearing aid only and cochlear implant only) when the words were presented on the side with no stimulation. Binaural loudness summation of 1-3 dB was seen in soundfield thresholds and loudness growth in the bimodal condition. Measures of the audibility of sound with the hearing aid, including unaided thresholds, soundfield thresholds, and the Speech Intelligibility Index, were significant moderators of speech recognition and localization. Based on the questionnaire responses, participants showed a strong preference for bimodal stimulation.

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that a well-fit digital hearing aid worn in conjunction with a cochlear implant is beneficial to speech recognition and localization. The dynamic test procedures used in this study illustrate the importance of bilateral hearing for locating, identifying, and switching attention between multiple speakers. It is recommended that unilateral cochlear implant recipients, with measurable unaided hearing thresholds, be fit with a hearing aid.

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