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Valid Acoustic Models of Cochlear Implants: One Size Does Not Fit All

Svirsky, Mario A; Capach, Nicole Hope; Neukam, Jonathan D; Azadpour, Mahan; Sagi, Elad; Hight, Ariel Edward; Glassman, E Katelyn; Lavender, Annette; Seward, Keena P; Miller, Margaret K; Ding, Nai; Tan, Chin-Tuan; Fitzgerald, Matthew B
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.
PMID: 34766938
ISSN: 1537-4505
CID: 5050812

Reducing interaural tonotopic mismatch preserves binaural unmasking in cochlear implant simulations of single-sided deafness

Sagi, Elad; Azadpour, Mahan; Neukam, Jonathan; Capach, Nicole Hope; Svirsky, Mario A
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 1-2 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.
PMID: 34717490
ISSN: 1520-8524
CID: 5037682

Visualization of Speech Perception Analysis via Phoneme Alignment: A Pilot Study

Ratnanather, J Tilak; Wang, Lydia C; Bae, Seung-Ho; O'Neill, Erin R; Sagi, Elad; Tward, Daniel J
PMID: 35087462
ISSN: 1664-2295
CID: 5154782

Deactivating cochlear implant electrodes to improve speech perception: A computational approach

Sagi, Elad; Svirsky, Mario A
A potential bottleneck to improving speech perception performance in cochlear implant (CI) users is that some of their electrodes may poorly encode speech information. Several studies have examined the effect of deactivating poorly encoding electrodes on speech perception with mixed results. Many of these studies focused on identifying poorly encoding electrodes by some measure (e.g. electrode discrimination, pitch ordering, threshold, CT-guided, masked modulation detection), but provide inconsistent criteria about which electrodes, and how many, should be deactivated, and without considering how speech information becomes distributed across the electrode array. The present simulation study addresses this issue using computational approaches. Previously validated models were used to generate predictions of speech scores as a function of all possible combinations of active electrodes in a 22-electrode array in three groups of hypothetical subjects representative of relatively better, moderate, and poorer performing CI users. Using high-performance computing, over 500 million predictions were generated. Although deactivation of the poorest encoding electrodes sometimes resulted in predicted benefit, this benefit was significantly less relative to predictions resulting from model-optimized deactivations. This trend persisted when using novel stimuli (i.e. other than those used for optimization) and when using different processing strategies. Optimum electrode deactivation patterns produced an average predicted increase in word scores of 10% with some scores increasing by more than 20%. Optimum electrode deactivation patterns typically included 11 to 19 (out of 22) active electrodes, depending on the performance group. Optimal active electrode combinations were those that maximized discrimination of speech cues, maintaining 80%-100% of the physical span of the array. The present study demonstrates the potential for further improving CI users' speech scores with appropriate selection of active electrodes.
PMID: 30396747
ISSN: 1878-5891
CID: 3455692

A Smartphone Application for Customized Frequency Table Selection in Cochlear Implants

Jethanamest, Daniel; Azadpour, Mahan; Zeman, Annette M; Sagi, Elad; Svirsky, Mario A
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.
PMID: 28806335
ISSN: 1537-4505
CID: 2669212

Contribution of formant frequency information to vowel perception in steady-state noise by cochlear implant users

Sagi, Elad; Svirsky, Mario A
Cochlear implant (CI) recipients have difficulty understanding speech in noise even at moderate signal-to-noise ratios. Knowing the mechanisms they use to understand speech in noise may facilitate the search for better speech processing algorithms. In the present study, a computational model is used to assess whether CI users' vowel identification in noise can be explained by formant frequency cues (F1 and F2). Vowel identification was tested with 12 unilateral CI users in quiet and in noise. Formant cues were measured from vowels in each condition, specific to each subject's speech processor. Noise distorted the location of vowels in the F2 vs F1 plane in comparison to quiet. The best fit model to subjects' data in quiet produced model predictions in noise that were within 8% of actual scores on average. Predictions in noise were much better when assuming that subjects used a priori knowledge regarding how formant information is degraded in noise (experiment 1). However, the model's best fit to subjects' confusion matrices in noise was worse than in quiet, suggesting that CI users utilize formant cues to identify vowels in noise, but to a different extent than how they identify vowels in quiet (experiment 2).
PMID: 28253672
ISSN: 1520-8524
CID: 2471552

The neural encoding of formant frequencies contributing to vowel identification in normal-hearing listeners

Won, Jong Ho; Tremblay, Kelly; Clinard, Christopher G; Wright, Richard A; Sagi, Elad; Svirsky, Mario
Even though speech signals trigger coding in the cochlea to convey speech information to the central auditory structures, little is known about the neural mechanisms involved in such processes. The purpose of this study was to understand the encoding of formant cues and how it relates to vowel recognition in listeners. Neural representations of formants may differ across listeners; however, it was hypothesized that neural patterns could still predict vowel recognition. To test the hypothesis, the frequency-following response (FFR) and vowel recognition were obtained from 38 normal-hearing listeners using four different vowels, allowing direct comparisons between behavioral and neural data in the same individuals. FFR was employed because it provides an objective and physiological measure of neural activity that can reflect formant encoding. A mathematical model was used to describe vowel confusion patterns based on the neural responses to vowel formant cues. The major findings were (1) there were large variations in the accuracy of vowel formant encoding across listeners as indexed by the FFR, (2) these variations were systematically related to vowel recognition performance, and (3) the mathematical model of vowel identification was successful in predicting good vs poor vowel identification performers based exclusively on physiological data.
PMID: 26826999
ISSN: 1520-8524
CID: 1931872

Bilateral cochlear implants with large asymmetries in electrode insertion depth: implications for the study of auditory plasticity

Svirsky, Mario A; Fitzgerald, Matthew B; Sagi, Elad; Glassman, E Katelyn
Abstract Conclusion: The human frequency-to-place map may be modified by experience, even in adult listeners. However, such plasticity has limitations. Knowledge of the extent and the limitations of human auditory plasticity can help optimize parameter settings in users of auditory prostheses. Objectives: To what extent can adults adapt to sharply different frequency-to-place maps across ears? This question was investigated in two bilateral cochlear implant users who had a full electrode insertion in one ear, a much shallower insertion in the other ear, and standard frequency-to-electrode maps in both ears. Methods: Three methods were used to assess adaptation to the frequency-to-electrode maps in each ear: (1) pitch matching of electrodes in opposite ears, (2) listener-driven selection of the most intelligible frequency-to-electrode map, and (3) speech perception tests. Based on these measurements, one subject was fitted with an alternative frequency-to-electrode map, which sought to compensate for her incomplete adaptation to the standard frequency-to-electrode map. Results: Both listeners showed remarkable ability to adapt, but such adaptation remained incomplete for the ear with the shallower electrode insertion, even after extended experience. The alternative frequency-to-electrode map that was tested resulted in substantial increases in speech perception for one subject in the short insertion ear.
PMID: 25719506
ISSN: 0001-6489
CID: 1474002

Feasibility of Real-Time Selection of Frequency Tables in an Acoustic Simulation of a Cochlear Implant

Fitzgerald, Matthew; Sagi, Elad; Morbiwala, Tasnim A; Tan, Chin-Tuan; Svirsky, Mario A
OBJECTIVES:: Perception of spectrally degraded speech is particularly difficult when the signal is also distorted along the frequency axis. This might be particularly important for post-lingually deafened recipients of cochlear implants (CIs), who must adapt to a signal where there may be a mismatch between the frequencies of an input signal and the characteristic frequencies of the neurons stimulated by the CI. However, there is a lack of tools that can be used to identify whether an individual has adapted fully to a mismatch in the frequency-to-place relationship and if so, to find a frequency table that ameliorates any negative effects of an unadapted mismatch. The goal of the proposed investigation is to test the feasibility of whether real-time selection of frequency tables can be used to identify cases in which listeners have not fully adapted to a frequency mismatch. The assumption underlying this approach is that listeners who have not adapted to a frequency mismatch will select a frequency table that minimizes any such mismatches, even at the expense of reducing the information provided by this frequency table. DESIGN:: Thirty-four normal-hearing adults listened to a noise-vocoded acoustic simulation of a CI and adjusted the frequency table in real time until they obtained a frequency table that sounded "most intelligible" to them. The use of an acoustic simulation was essential to this study because it allowed the authors to explicitly control the degree of frequency mismatch present in the simulation. None of the listeners had any previous experience with vocoded speech, in order to test the hypothesis that the real-time selection procedure could be used to identify cases in which a listener has not adapted to a frequency mismatch. After obtaining a self-selected table, the authors measured consonant nucleus consonant word-recognition scores with that self-selected table and two other frequency tables: a "frequency-matched" table that matched the analysis filters with the noisebands of the noise-vocoder simulation, and a "right information" table that is similar to that used in most CI speech processors, but in this simulation results in a frequency shift equivalent to 6.5 mm of cochlear space. RESULTS:: Listeners tended to select a table that was very close to, but shifted slightly lower in frequency from the frequency-matched table. The real-time selection process took on average 2 to 3 min for each trial, and the between-trial variability was comparable with that previously observed with closely related procedures. The word-recognition scores with the self-selected table were clearly higher than with the right-information table and slightly higher than with the frequency-matched table. CONCLUSIONS:: Real-time self-selection of frequency tables may be a viable tool for identifying listeners who have not adapted to a mismatch in the frequency-to-place relationship, and to find a frequency table that is more appropriate for them. Moreover, the small but significant improvements in word-recognition ability observed with the self-selected table suggest that these listeners based their selections on intelligibility rather than some other factor. The within-subject variability in the real-time selection procedure was comparable with that of a genetic algorithm, and the speed of the real-time procedure appeared to be faster than either a genetic algorithm or a simplex procedure.
PMID: 23807089
ISSN: 0196-0202
CID: 484962


Svirsky, Mario A; Ding, Nai; Sagi, Elad; Tan, Chin-Tuan; Fitzgerald, Matthew; Glassman, E Katelyn; Seward, Keena; Neuman, Arlene C
Acoustic models have been used in numerous studies over the past thirty years to simulate the percepts elicited by auditory neural prostheses. In these acoustic models, incoming signals are processed the same way as in a cochlear implant speech processor. The percepts that would be caused by electrical stimulation in a real cochlear implant are simulated by modulating the amplitude of either noise bands or sinusoids. Despite their practical usefulness these acoustic models have never been convincingly validated. This study presents a tool to conduct such validation using subjects who have a cochlear implant in one ear and have near perfect hearing in the other ear, allowing for the first time a direct perceptual comparison of the output of acoustic models to the stimulation provided by a cochlear implant.
PMID: 25435816
ISSN: 1520-6149
CID: 1369912