No AccessJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing ResearchResearch Article1 Apr 2014

Do Adults With Cochlear Implants Rely on Different Acoustic Cues for Phoneme Perception Than Adults With Normal Hearing?


    Several acoustic cues specify any single phonemic contrast. Nonetheless, adult, native speakers of a language share weighting strategies, showing preferential attention to some properties over others. Cochlear implant (CI) signal processing disrupts the salience of some cues: In general, amplitude structure remains readily available, but spectral structure less so. This study asked how well speech recognition is supported if CI users shift attention to salient cues not weighted strongly by native speakers.


    Twenty adults with CIs participated. The /bɑ/-/wɑ/ contrast was used because spectral and amplitude structure varies in correlated fashion for this contrast. Adults with normal hearing weight the spectral cue strongly but the amplitude cue negligibly. Three measurements were made: labeling decisions, spectral and amplitude discrimination, and word recognition.


    Outcomes varied across listeners: Some weighted the spectral cue strongly, some weighted the amplitude cue, and some weighted neither. Spectral discrimination predicted spectral weighting. Spectral weighting explained the most variance in word recognition. Age of onset of hearing loss predicted spectral weighting but not unique variance in word recognition.


    The weighting strategies of listeners with normal hearing likely support speech recognition best, so efforts in implant design, fitting, and training should focus on developing those strategies.


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