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Authors Ehlers E, Goupell MJ, Zheng Y, Godar SP, Litovsky RY
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Journal J. Acoust. Soc. Am. Volume: 141 Issue: 6 Pages: 4264
Publish Date 2017 Jun
PubMed ID 28618809
PMC ID 5464955

Children who are deaf and receive bilateral cochlear implants (BiCIs) perform better on spatial hearing tasks using bilateral rather than unilateral inputs; however, they underperform relative to normal-hearing (NH) peers. This gap in performance is multi-factorial, including the inability of speech processors to reliably deliver binaural cues. Although much is known regarding binaural sensitivity of adults with BiCIs, less is known about how the development of binaural sensitivity in children with BiCIs compared to NH children. Sixteen children (ages 9-17 years) were tested using synchronized research processors. Interaural time differences and interaural level differences (ITDs and ILDs, respectively) were presented to pairs of pitch-matched electrodes. Stimuli were 300-ms, 100-pulses-per-second, constant-amplitude pulse trains. In the first and second experiments, discrimination of interaural cues (either ITDs or ILDs) was measured using a two-interval left/right task. In the third experiment, subjects reported the perceived intracranial position of ITDs and ILDs in a lateralization task. All children demonstrated sensitivity to ILDs, possibly due to monaural level cues. Children who were born deaf had weak or absent sensitivity to ITDs; in contrast, ITD sensitivity was noted in children with previous exposure to acoustic hearing. Therefore, factors such as auditory deprivation, in particular, lack of early exposure to consistent timing differences between the ears, may delay the maturation of binaural circuits and cause insensitivity to binaural differences.

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