Understanding speech in modulated interference: Cochlear implant users and normal-hearing listeners

Peggy B. Nelson, Su Hyun Jin, Arlene Earley Carney, David A. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

226 Scopus citations


Many competing noises in real environments are modulated or fluctuating in level. Listeners with normal hearing are able to take advantage of temporal gaps in fluctuating maskers. Listeners with sensorineural hearing loss show less benefit from modulated maskers. Cochlear implant users may be more adversely affected by modulated maskers because of their limited spectral resolution and by their reliance on envelope-based signal-processing strategies of implant processors. The current study evaluated cochlear implant users' ability to understand sentences in the presence of modulated speech-shaped noise. Normal-hearing listeners served as a comparison group. Listeners repeated IEEE sentences in quiet, steady noise, and modulated noise maskers. Maskers were presented at varying signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) at six modulation rates varying from 1 to 32 Hz. Results' suggested that normal-hearing listeners obtain significant release from masking from modulated maskers, especially at 8-Hz masker modulation frequency. In contrast, cochlear implant users experience very little release from masking from modulated maskers. The data suggest, in fact, that they may show negative effects of modulated maskers at syllabic modulation rates (2-4 Hz). Similar patterns of results were obtained from implant listeners using three different devices with different speech-processor strategies. The lack of release from masking occurs in implant listeners independent of their device characteristics, and may be attributable to the nature of implant processing strategies and/or the lack of spectral detail in processed stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)961-968
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003


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