Strategic Pauses Relieve Listeners from the Effort of Listening to Fast Speech: Data Limited and Resource Limited Processes in Narrative Recall by Adult Users of Cochlear Implants
Speech that has been artificially accelerated through time compression produces a notable deficit in recall of the speech content. This is especially so for adults with cochlear implants (CI). At the perceptual level, this deficit may be due to the sharply degraded CI signal, combined with the reduced richness of compressed speech. At the cognitive level, the rapidity of time-compressed speech can deprive the listener of the ordinarily available processing time present when speech is delivered at a normal speech rate. Two experiments are reported. Experiment 1 was conducted with 27 normal-hearing young adults as a proof-of-concept demonstration that restoring lost processing time by inserting silent pauses at linguistically salient points within a time-compressed narrative ("time-restoration") returns recall accuracy to a level approximating that for a normal speech rate. Noise vocoder conditions with 10 and 6 channels reduced the effectiveness of time-restoration. Pupil dilation indicated that additional effort was expended by participants while attempting to process the time-compressed narratives, with the effortful demand on resources reduced with time restoration. In Experiment 2, 15 adult CI users tested with the same (unvocoded) materials showed a similar pattern of behavioral and pupillary responses, but with the notable exception that meaningful recovery of recall accuracy with time-restoration was limited to a subgroup of CI users identified by better working memory spans, and better word and sentence recognition scores. Results are discussed in terms of sensory-cognitive interactions in data-limited and resource-limited processes among adult users of cochlear implants.
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.
Adults with cochlear implants can use prosody to determine the clausal structure of spoken sentences
Speech prosody, including pitch contour, word stress, pauses, and vowel lengthening, can aid the detection of the clausal structure of a multi-clause sentence and this, in turn, can help listeners determine the meaning. However, for cochlear implant (CI) users, the reduced acoustic richness of the signal raises the question of whether CI users may have difficulty using sentence prosody to detect syntactic clause boundaries within sentences or whether this ability is rescued by the redundancy of the prosodic features that normally co-occur at clause boundaries. Twenty-two CI users, ranging in age from 19 to 77 years old, recalled three types of sentences: sentences in which the prosodic pattern was appropriate to the location of a clause boundary within the sentence (congruent prosody), sentences with reduced prosodic information, or sentences in which the location of the clause boundary and the prosodic marking of a clause boundary were placed in conflict. The results showed the presence of congruent prosody to be associated with superior sentence recall and a reduced processing effort as indexed by the pupil dilation. The individual differences in a standard test of word recognition (consonant-nucleus-consonant score) were related to the recall accuracy as well as the processing effort. The outcomes are discussed in terms of the redundancy of the prosodic features, which normally accompany a clause boundary and processing effort.
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.