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Authors Churchill TH, Kan A, Goupell MJ, Ihlefeld A, Litovsky RY
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Journal J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngol. Volume: 15 Issue: 2 Pages: 265-78
Publish Date 2014 Apr
PubMed ID 24448721
PMC ID 3946138

A cochlear implant (CI) presents band-pass-filtered acoustic envelope information by modulating current pulse train levels. Similarly, a vocoder presents envelope information by modulating an acoustic carrier. By studying how normal hearing (NH) listeners are able to understand degraded speech signals with a vocoder, the parameters that best simulate electric hearing and factors that might contribute to the NH-CI performance difference may be better understood. A vocoder with harmonic complex carriers (fundamental frequency, f0 = 100 Hz) was used to study the effect of carrier phase dispersion on speech envelopes and intelligibility. The starting phases of the harmonic components were randomly dispersed to varying degrees prior to carrier filtering and modulation. NH listeners were tested on recognition of a closed set of vocoded words in background noise. Two sets of synthesis filters simulated different amounts of current spread in CIs. Results showed that the speech vocoded with carriers whose starting phases were maximally dispersed was the most intelligible. Superior speech understanding may have been a result of the flattening of the dispersed-phase carrier’s intrinsic temporal envelopes produced by the large number of interacting components in the high-frequency channels. Cross-correlogram analyses of auditory nerve model simulations confirmed that randomly dispersing the carrier’s component starting phases resulted in better neural envelope representation. However, neural metrics extracted from these analyses were not found to accurately predict speech recognition scores for all vocoded speech conditions. It is possible that central speech understanding mechanisms are insensitive to the envelope-fine structure dichotomy exploited by vocoders.

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