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Frequency compression in bimodal CI users (Sharma et al., 2021)

posted on 2021-10-29, 18:54 authored by Snandan Sharma, Waldo Nogueira, A. John van Opstal, Josef Chalupper, Lucas H. M. Mens, Marc M. van Wanrooij
Purpose: Speech understanding in noise and horizontal sound localization is poor in most cochlear implant (CI) users with a hearing aid (bimodal stimulation). This study investigated the effect of static and less-extreme adaptive frequency compression in hearing aids on spatial hearing. By means of frequency compression, we aimed to restore high-frequency audibility, and thus improve sound localization and spatial speech recognition.
Method: Sound-detection thresholds, sound localization, and spatial speech recognition were measured in eight bimodal CI users, with and without frequency compression. We tested two compression algorithms: a static algorithm, which compressed frequencies beyond the compression knee point (160 or 480 Hz), and an adaptive algorithm, which aimed to compress only consonants leaving vowels unaffected (adaptive knee-point frequencies from 736 to 2946 Hz).
Results: Compression yielded a strong audibility benefit (high-frequency thresholds improved by 40 and 24 dB for static and adaptive compression, respectively), no meaningful improvement in localization performance (errors remained > 30 deg), and spatial speech recognition across all participants. Localization biases without compression (toward the hearing-aid and implant side for low- and high-frequency sounds, respectively) disappeared or reversed with compression. The audibility benefits provided to each bimodal user partially explained any individual improvements in localization performance; shifts in bias; and, for six out of eight participants, benefits in spatial speech recognition.
Conclusions: We speculate that limiting factors such as a persistent hearing asymmetry and mismatch in spectral overlap prevent compression in bimodal users from improving sound localization. Therefore, the benefit in spatial release from masking by compression is likely due to a shift of attention to the ear with the better signal-to-noise ratio facilitated by compression, rather than an improved spatial selectivity.

Supplemental Material S1. Individual audibility benefit (dB) for static and adaptive frequency compression and for different sound types. LP = low-pass; HP = high-pass; BB = broadband.

Supplemental Material S2. Individual RMSE (deg) for sound localization with (static, adaptive) and without (no) frequency compression and for different sound types. LP = low-pass; HP = high-pass; BB = broadband.

Supplemental Material S3. Speech recognition thresholds (dB) for S0N0 condition with and without frequency compression and the corresponding spatial release from masking [SRM (dB)] for each participant.

Sharma, S., Nogueira, W., van Opstal, A. J., Chalupper, J., Mens, L. H. M., & van Wanrooij, M. M. (2021). Amount of frequency compression in bimodal cochlear implant users is a poor predictor for audibility and spatial hearing. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This work was supported by the European Union FP7-People- 2013-ITN (HealthPAC, Grant 604063; S. S.), the European Union Horizon-2020 ERC Advanced Grant 2016 (ORIENT, Grant 693400; A. J. V. O., S. S.), the Radboud University Medical Center (L. H. M. M.), the Radboud University Nijmegen (M. M. V. W.), and by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) under Germany’s Excellence Strategy EXC 2177/1—Project ID 390895286.