Availability of binaural cues for bilateral implant recipients and bimodal listeners with and without preserved hearing in the implanted ear.


The purpose of this study was to examine the availability of binaural cues for adult, bilateral cochlear implant (CI) patients, bimodal patients and hearing preservation patients using a multiple-baseline, observational study design. Speech recognition was assessed using the Bamford-Kowal-Bench Speech-in-Noise (BKB-SIN) test as well as the AzBio sentences [Spahr AJ, et al: Ear Hear 2012;33:112-117] presented in a multi-talker babble at a +5 dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Test conditions included speech at 0° with noise presented at 0° (S0N0), 90° (S0N90) and 270° (S0N270). Estimates of summation, head shadow (HS), squelch and spatial release from masking (SRM) were calculated. Though nonwwe of the subject groups consistently showed access to binaural cues, the hearing preservation patients exhibited a significant correlation between summation and squelch whereas the bilateral and bimodal participants did not. That is to say, the two effects associated with binaural hearing - summation and squelch - were positively correlated only for the listeners with bilateral acoustic hearing. This finding provides evidence for the supposition that implant recipients with bilateral acoustic hearing have access to binaural cues, which should, in theory, provide greater benefit in noisy listening environments. It is likely, however, that the chosen test environment negatively affected the outcomes. Specifically, the spatially separated noise conditions directed noise toward the microphone (mic) port of the behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid and implant processor. Thus, it is possible that in more realistic listening environments for which the diffuse noise is not directed toward the processor/hearing aid mic, hearing preservation patients have binaural cues for improved speech understanding.