Suboptimal interfaces between cochlear implant (CI) electrodes and auditory neurons result in a loss or distortion of spectral information in specific frequency regions, which likely decreases CI users' speech identification performance. This study exploited speech acoustics to model regions of distorted CI frequency transmission to determine the perceptual consequences of suboptimal electrode-neuron interfaces. Normal hearing adults identified naturally spoken vowels and consonants after spectral information was manipulated through a noiseband vocoder: either (1) low-, middle-, or high-frequency regions of information were removed by zeroing the corresponding channel outputs, or (2) the same regions were distorted by splitting filter outputs to neighboring filters. These conditions simulated the detrimental effects of suboptimal CI electrode-neuron interfaces on spectral transmission. Vowel and consonant confusion patterns were analyzed with sequential information transmission, perceptual distance, and perceptual vowel space analyses. Results indicated that both types of spectral manipulation were equally destructive. Loss or distortion of frequency information produced similar effects on phoneme identification performance and confusion patterns. Consonant error patterns were consistently based on place of articulation. Vowel confusions showed that perceptions gravitated away from the degraded frequency region in a predictable manner, indicating that vowels can probe frequency-specific regions of spectral degradations.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant No. T32DC005361 (M.D., PI David Perkel), National Institutes of Health National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant No. R03 DC014309 (M.B.W.), and National Institutes of Health National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders R01 DC012142 (J.A.B.).
© 2016 Acoustical Society of America.