Head Shadow and Binaural Squelch for Unilaterally Deaf Cochlear Implantees

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Abstract

Background:

Cochlear implants (CIs) can improve speech-in-noise performance for listeners with unilateral sensorineural deafness. But these benefits are modest and in most cases are limited to head-shadow advantages, with little evidence of binaural squelch.

Hypothesis:

The goal of the investigation was to determine whether CI listeners with normal hearing or moderate hearing loss in the contralateral ear would receive a larger head-shadow benefit for target speech and noise originating from opposite sides of the head, and whether listeners would experience binaural squelch in the free field in a test involving interfering talkers.

Methods:

Eleven CI listeners performed a speech-identification task in the presence of interfering noise or speech. Six listeners had single-sided deafness (normal or near-normal audiometric thresholds in the acoustic ear) and five had asymmetric hearing loss (hearing loss in the acoustic ear treated with a hearing aid). Listeners were tested with the acoustic ear only and bilaterally with the CI turned on. One set of conditions examined head-shadow effects with target speech and masking noise presented from azimuths of 0 or ±108 degrees. A second set of conditions examined binaural squelch, with target speech presented from the front and interfering talkers symmetrically placed on both sides.

Results:

On average, the largest head-shadow benefit (5 dB) occurred when the target and masking noise were presented on opposite sides of the head. Listeners also showed an average of 2 dB of squelch, but only when the target speech was masked by interfering talkers of the same sex as the target.

Conclusions:

CIs provide listeners with unilateral deafness important benefits for speech perception in complex spatial environments, including a larger head-shadow benefit when speech and noise originate on opposite sides of the head, and an improved ability to perceptually organize an auditory scene with multiple competing voices.

Conclusions:

The views expressed in this abstract are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy of the Department of Army/Navy/Air Force, Department of Defense, or US Government.

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