This study assessed the impact of semantic context and talker variability on speech perception by cochlear-implant (CI) users and compared their overall performance and between-subjects variance with that of normal-hearing (NH) listeners under vocoded conditions. Thirty post-lingually deafened adult CI users were tested, along with 30 age-matched and 30 younger NH listeners, on sentences with and without semantic context, presented in quiet and noise, spoken by four different talkers. Additional measures included working memory, non-verbal intelligence, and spectral-ripple detection and discrimination. Semantic context and between-Talker differences influenced speech perception to similar degrees for both CI users and NH listeners. Between-subjects variance for speech perception was greatest in the CI group but remained substantial in both NH groups, despite the uniformly degraded stimuli in these two groups. Spectral-ripple detection and discrimination thresholds in CI users were significantly correlated with speech perception, but a single set of vocoder parameters for NH listeners was not able to capture average CI performance in both speech and spectral-ripple tasks. The lack of difference in the use of semantic context between CI users and NH listeners suggests no overall differences in listening strategy between the groups, when the stimuli are similarly degraded.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by NIH Grant No. R01 DC012262. We thank the participants for their patience and dedication in the sound booth. The written and recorded context and nonsense sentences used in this study are available from the Data Repository for the University of Minnesota (DRUM) (O’Neill et al., 2020).
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