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Authors Zheng Y, Godar SP, Litovsky RY
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Journal PLoS ONE Volume: 10 Issue: 8 Pages: e0135790
Publish Date 2015
PubMed ID 26288142
PMC ID 4545829
Abstract

Localizing sounds in our environment is one of the fundamental perceptual abilities that enable humans to communicate, and to remain safe. Because the acoustic cues necessary for computing source locations consist of differences between the two ears in signal intensity and arrival time, sound localization is fairly poor when a single ear is available. In adults who become deaf and are fitted with cochlear implants (CIs) sound localization is known to improve when bilateral CIs (BiCIs) are used compared to when a single CI is used. The aim of the present study was to investigate the emergence of spatial hearing sensitivity in children who use BiCIs, with a particular focus on the development of behavioral localization patterns when stimuli are presented in free-field horizontal acoustic space. A new analysis was implemented to quantify patterns observed in children for mapping acoustic space to a spatially relevant perceptual representation. Children with normal hearing were found to distribute their responses in a manner that demonstrated high spatial sensitivity. In contrast, children with BiCIs tended to classify sound source locations to the left and right; with increased bilateral hearing experience, they developed a perceptual map of space that was better aligned with the acoustic space. The results indicate experience-dependent refinement of spatial hearing skills in children with CIs. Localization strategies appear to undergo transitions from sound source categorization strategies to more fine-grained location identification strategies. This may provide evidence for neural plasticity, with implications for training of spatial hearing ability in CI users.

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