Valid Acoustic Models of Cochlear Implants: One Size Does Not Fit All
HYPOTHESIS/OBJECTIVE:This study tests the hypothesis that it is possible to find tone or noise vocoders that sound similar and result in similar speech perception scores to a cochlear implant (CI). This would validate the use of such vocoders as acoustic models of CIs. We further hypothesize that those valid acoustic models will require a personalized amount of frequency mismatch between input filters and output tones or noise bands. BACKGROUND:Noise or tone vocoders have been used as acoustic models of CIs in hundreds of publications but have never been convincingly validated. METHODS:Acoustic models were evaluated by single-sided deaf CI users who compared what they heard with the CI in one ear to what they heard with the acoustic model in the other ear. We evaluated frequency-matched models (both all-channel and 6-channel models, both tone and noise vocoders) as well as self-selected models that included an individualized level of frequency mismatch. RESULTS:Self-selected acoustic models resulted in similar levels of speech perception and similar perceptual quality as the CI. These models also matched the CI in terms of perceived intelligibility, harshness, and pleasantness. CONCLUSION/CONCLUSIONS:Valid acoustic models of CIs exist, but they are different from the models most widely used in the literature. Individual amounts of frequency mismatch may be required to optimize the validity of the model. This may be related to the basalward frequency mismatch experienced by postlingually deaf patients after cochlear implantation.
Reducing interaural tonotopic mismatch preserves binaural unmasking in cochlear implant simulations of single-sided deafness
Binaural unmasking, a key feature of normal binaural hearing, can refer to the improved intelligibility of masked speech by adding masking that facilitates perceived separation of target and masker. A question relevant for cochlear implant users with single-sided deafness (SSD-CI) is whether binaural unmasking can still be achieved if the additional masking is spectrally degraded and shifted. CIs restore some aspects of binaural hearing to these listeners, although binaural unmasking remains limited. Notably, these listeners may experience a mismatch between the frequency information perceived through the CI and that perceived by their normal hearing ear. Employing acoustic simulations of SSD-CI with normal hearing listeners, the present study confirms a previous simulation study that binaural unmasking is severely limited when interaural frequency mismatch between the input frequency range and simulated place of stimulation exceeds 1-2â€‰mm. The present study also shows that binaural unmasking is largely retained when the input frequency range is adjusted to match simulated place of stimulation, even at the expense of removing low-frequency information. This result bears implications for the mechanisms driving the type of binaural unmasking of the present study and for mapping the frequency range of the CI speech processor in SSD-CI users.
Assessing temporal responsiveness of primary stimulated neurons in auditory brainstem and cochlear implant users
The reasons why clinical outcomes with auditory brainstem implants (ABIs) are generally poorer than with cochlear implants (CIs) are still somewhat elusive. Prior work has focused on differences in processing of spectral information due to possibly poorer tonotopic representation and higher channel interaction with ABIs than with CIs. In contrast, this study examines the hypothesis that a potential contributing reason for poor speech perception in ABI users may be the relative lack of temporal responsiveness of the primary neurons that are stimulated by the ABI. The cochlear nucleus, the site of ABI stimulation, consists of different neuron types, most of which have much more complex responses than the auditory nerve neurons stimulated by a CI. Temporal responsiveness of primary stimulated neurons was assessed in a group of ABI and CI users by measuring recovery of electrically evoked compound action potentials (ECAPs) from single-pulse forward masking. Slower ECAP recovery tended to be associated with poorer hearing outcomes in both groups. ABI subjects with the longest recovery time had no speech understanding or even no hearing sensation with their ABI device; speech perception for the one CI outlier with long ECAP recovery time was well below average. To the extent that ECAP recovery measures reveal temporal properties of the primary neurons that receive direct stimulation form neural prosthesis devices, they may provide a physiological underpinning for clinical outcomes of auditory implants. ECAP recovery measures may be used to determine which portions of the cochlear nucleus to stimulate, and possibly allow us to enhance the stimulation paradigms.
Effect of Pulse Rate on Loudness Discrimination in Cochlear Implant Users
Stimulation pulse rate affects current amplitude discrimination by cochlear implant (CI) users, indicated by the evidence that the JND (just noticeable difference) in current amplitude delivered by a CI electrode becomes larger at higher pulse rates. However, it is not clearly understood whether pulse rate would affect discrimination of speech intensities presented acoustically to CI processors, or what the size of this effect might be. Intensity discrimination depends on two factors: the growth of loudness with increasing sound intensity and the loudness JND (or the just noticeable loudness increment). This study evaluated the hypothesis that stimulation pulse rate affects loudness JND. This was done by measuring current amplitude JNDs in an experiment design based on signal detection theory according to which loudness discrimination is related to internal noise (which is manifested by variability in loudness percept in response to repetitions of the same physical stimulus). Current amplitude JNDs were measured for equally loud pulse trains of 500 and 3000Â pps (pulses per second) by increasing the current amplitude of the target pulse train until it was perceived just louder than a same-rate or different-rate reference pulse train. The JND measures were obtained at two presentation levels. At the louder level, the current amplitude JNDs were affected by the rate of the reference pulse train in a way that was consistent with greater noise or variability in loudness perception for the higher pulse rate. The results suggest that increasing pulse rate from 500 to 3000Â pps can increase loudness JND by 60Â % at the upper portion of the dynamic range. This is equivalent to a 38Â % reduction in the number of discriminable steps for acoustic and speech intensities.
A Smartphone Application for Customized Frequency Table Selection in Cochlear Implants
HYPOTHESIS: A novel smartphone-based software application can facilitate self-selection of frequency allocation tables (FAT) in postlingually deaf cochlear implant (CI) users. BACKGROUND: CIs use FATs to represent the tonotopic organization of a normal cochlea. Current CI fitting methods typically use a standard FAT for all patients regardless of individual differences in cochlear size and electrode location. In postlingually deaf patients, different amounts of mismatch can result between the frequency-place function they experienced when they had normal hearing and the frequency-place function that results from the standard FAT. For some CI users, an alternative FAT may enhance sound quality or speech perception. Currently, no widely available tools exist to aid real-time selection of different FATs. This study aims to develop a new smartphone tool for this purpose and to evaluate speech perception and sound quality measures in a pilot study of CI subjects using this application. METHODS: A smartphone application for a widely available mobile platform (iOS) was developed to serve as a preprocessor of auditory input to a clinical CI speech processor and enable interactive real-time selection of FATs. The application's output was validated by measuring electrodograms for various inputs. A pilot study was conducted in six CI subjects. Speech perception was evaluated using word recognition tests. RESULTS: All subjects successfully used the portable application with their clinical speech processors to experience different FATs while listening to running speech. The users were all able to select one table that they judged provided the best sound quality. All subjects chose a FAT different from the standard FAT in their everyday clinical processor. Using the smartphone application, the mean consonant-nucleus-consonant score with the default FAT selection was 28.5% (SD 16.8) and 29.5% (SD 16.4) when using a self-selected FAT. CONCLUSION: A portable smartphone application enables CI users to self-select frequency allocation tables in real time. Even though the self-selected FATs that were deemed to have better sound quality were only tested acutely (i.e., without long-term experience with them), speech perception scores were not inferior to those obtained with the clinical FATs. This software application may be a valuable tool for improving future methods of CI fitting.
Enhancing speech envelope by integrating hair-cell adaptation into cochlear implant processing
Cochlear implants (CIs) bypass some of the mechanisms that underlie normal neural behavior as occurs in acoustic hearing. One such neural mechanism is short-term adaptation, which has been proposed to have a significant role in speech perception. Acoustically-evoked neural adaptation has been mainly attributed to the depletion of neurotransmitter in the hair-cell to auditory-nerve synapse and is therefore not fully present in CI stimulation. This study evaluated a signal processing method that integrated a physiological model of hair-cell adaptation into CI speech processing. The linear high-pass adaptation process expanded the range of rapid variations of the electrical signal generated by the clinical processing strategy. Speech perception performance with the adaptation-based processing was compared to that of the clinical strategy in seven CI users. While there was large variability across subjects, the new processing improved sentence recognition and consonant identification scores in quiet in all the tested subjects with an average improvement of 8% and 6% respectively. Consonant recognition scores in babble noise were improved at the higher signal-to-noise ratios tested (10 and 6 dB) only. Information transfer analysis of consonant features showed significant improvements for manner and place of articulation features, but not for voicing. Enhancement of within-channel envelope cues was confirmed by consonant recognition results obtained with single-channel strategies that presented the overall amplitude envelope of the signal on a single active electrode. Adaptation-inspired envelope enhancement techniques can potentially improve perception of important speech features by CI users.
A proposed mechanism for rapid adaptation to spectrally distorted speech
The mechanisms underlying perceptual adaptation to severely spectrally-distorted speech were studied by training participants to comprehend spectrally-rotated speech, which is obtained by inverting the speech spectrum. Spectral-rotation produces severe distortion confined to the spectral domain while preserving temporal trajectories. During five 1-hour training sessions, pairs of participants attempted to extract spoken messages from the spectrally-rotated speech of their training partner. Data on training-induced changes in comprehension of spectrally-rotated sentences and identification/discrimination of spectrally-rotated phonemes were used to evaluate the plausibility of three different classes of underlying perceptual mechanisms: (1) phonemic remapping (the formation of new phonemic categories that specifically incorporate spectrally-rotated acoustic information); (2) experience-dependent generation of a perceptual "inverse-transform" that compensates for spectral-rotation; and (3) changes in cue weighting (the identification of sets of acoustic cues least affected by spectral-rotation, followed by a rapid shift in perceptual emphasis to favour those cues, combined with the recruitment of the same type of "perceptual filling-in" mechanisms used to disambiguate speech-in-noise). Results exclusively support the third mechanism, which is the only one predicting that learning would specifically target temporally-dynamic cues that were transmitting phonetic information most stably in spite of spectral-distortion. No support was found for phonemic remapping or for inverse-transform generation.
Electrode Selection and Speech Understanding in Patients With Auditory Brainstem Implants
OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to evaluate whether speech understanding in auditory brainstem implant (ABI) users who have a tumor pathology could be improved by the selection of a subset of electrodes that were appropriately pitch ranked and distinguishable. It was hypothesized that disordered pitch or spectral percepts and channel interactions may contribute significantly to the poor outcomes in most ABI users. DESIGN: A single-subject design was used with five participants. Pitch ranking information for all electrodes in the patients' clinic maps was obtained using a pitch ranking task and previous pitch ranking information from clinic sessions. A multidimensional scaling task was used to evaluate the stimulus space evoked by stimuli on the same set of electrodes. From this information, a subset of four to six electrodes was chosen and a new map was created, using just this subset, that the subjects took home for 1 month's experience. Closed-set consonant and vowel perception and sentences in quiet were tested at three sessions: with the clinic map before the test map was given, after 1 month with the test map, and after an additional 2 weeks with their clinic map. RESULTS: The results of the pitch ranking and multidimensional scaling procedures confirmed that the ABI users did not have a well-ordered set of percepts related to electrode position, thus supporting the proposal that difficulty in processing of spectral information may contribute to poor speech understanding. However, none of the subjects benefited from a map that reduced the stimulation electrode set to a smaller number of electrodes that were well ordered in place pitch. CONCLUSIONS: Although poor spectral processing may contribute to poor understanding in ABI users, it is not likely to be the sole contributor to poor outcomes.
Gradual adaptation to auditory frequency mismatch
What is the best way to help humans adapt to a distorted sensory input? Interest in this question is more than academic. The answer may help facilitate auditory learning by people who became deaf after learning language and later received a cochlear implant (a neural prosthesis that restores hearing through direct electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve). There is evidence that some cochlear implants (which provide information that is spectrally degraded to begin with) stimulate neurons with higher characteristic frequency than the acoustic frequency of the original stimulus. In other words, the stimulus is shifted in frequency with respect to what the listener expects to hear. This frequency misalignment may have a negative influence on speech perception by CI users. However, a perfect frequency-place alignment may result in the loss of important low frequency speech information. A trade-off may involve a gradual approach: start with correct frequency-place alignment to allow listeners to adapt to the spectrally degraded signal first, and then gradually increase the frequency shift to allow them to adapt to it over time. We used an acoustic model of a cochlear implant to measure adaptation to a frequency-shifted signal, using either the gradual approach or the "standard" approach (sudden imposition of the frequency shift). Listeners in both groups showed substantial auditory learning, as measured by increases in speech perception scores over the course of fifteen one-hour training sessions. However, the learning process was faster for listeners who were exposed to the gradual approach. These results suggest that gradual rather than sudden exposure may facilitate perceptual learning in the face of a spectrally degraded, frequency-shifted input. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled .
Processing of speech temporal and spectral information by users of auditory brainstem implants and cochlear implants
OBJECTIVES: Auditory brainstem implants (ABI) use the same processing strategy as was developed for cochlear implants (CI). However, the cochlear nucleus (CN), the stimulation site of ABIs, is anatomically and physiologically more complex than the auditory nerve and consists of neurons with differing roles in auditory processing. The aim of this study was to evaluate the hypotheses that ABI users are less able than CI users to access speech spectro-temporal information delivered by the existing strategies and that the sites stimulated by different locations of CI and ABI electrode arrays differ in encoding of temporal patterns in the stimulation. DESIGN: Six CI users and four ABI users of Nucleus implants with ACE processing strategy participated in this study. Closed-set perception of aCa syllables (16 consonants) and bVd words (11 vowels) was evaluated via experimental processing strategies that activated one, two, or four of the electrodes of the array in a CIS manner as well as subjects' clinical strategies. Three single-channel strategies presented the overall temporal envelope variations of the signal on a single-implant electrode located at the high-, medium-, and low-frequency regions of the array. Implantees' ability to discriminate within electrode temporal patterns of stimulation for phoneme perception and their ability to make use of spectral information presented by increased number of active electrodes were assessed in the single- and multiple-channel strategies, respectively. Overall percentages and information transmission of phonetic features were obtained for each experimental program. RESULTS: Phoneme perception performance of three ABI users was within the range of CI users in most of the experimental strategies and improved as the number of active electrodes increased. One ABI user performed close to chance with all the single and multiple electrode strategies. There was no significant difference between apical, basal, and middle CI electrodes in transmitting speech temporal information, except a trend that the voicing feature was the least transmitted by the basal electrode. A similar electrode-location pattern could be observed in most ABI subjects. CONCLUSIONS: Although the number of tested ABI subjects was small, their wide range of phoneme perception performance was consistent with previous reports of overall speech perception in ABI patients. The better-performing ABI user participants had access to speech temporal and spectral information that was comparable to that of average CI user. The poor-performing ABI user did not have access to within-channel speech temporal information and did not benefit from an increased number of spectral channels. The within-subject variability between different ABI electrodes was less than the variability across users in transmission of speech temporal information. The difference in the performance of ABI users could be related to the location of their electrode array on the CN, anatomy, and physiology of their CN or the damage to their auditory brainstem due to tumor or surgery.