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Psychoacoustic Abilities Associated With Music Perception in Cochlear Implant Users

Won, Jong Ho1,2; Drennan, Ward R.1; Kang, Robert S.1; Rubinstein, Jay T.1,2

doi: 10.1097/AUD.0b013e3181e8b7bd
Research Articles

Objectives: This study was designed to determine what acoustic elements are associated with musical perception ability in cochlear implant (CI) users and to understand how acoustic elements, which are important to good speech perception, contribute to music perception in CI users. It was hypothesized that the variability in the performance of music and speech perception may be related to differences in the sensitivity to specific acoustic features such as spectral changes or temporal modulations, or both.

Design: A battery of hearing tasks was administered to 42 CI listeners. The Clinical Assessment of Music Perception was used, which evaluates complex-tone pitch-direction discrimination, melody recognition, and timbre recognition. To investigate spectral and temporal processing, spectral-ripple discrimination and Schroeder-phase discrimination abilities were evaluated. Speech perception ability in quiet and noise was also evaluated. Relationships between Clinical Assessment of Music Perception subtest scores, spectral-ripple discrimination thresholds, Schroeder-phase discrimination scores, and speech recognition scores were assessed.

Results: Spectral-ripple discrimination was shown to correlate with all three aspects of music perception studied. Schroeder-phase discrimination was generally not predictive of music perception outcomes. Music perception ability was significantly correlated with speech perception ability. Nearly half of the variance in melody and timbre recognition was predicted jointly by spectral-ripple and pitch-direction discrimination thresholds. Similar results were observed on speech recognition as well.

Conclusions: This study suggests that spectral-ripple discrimination is significantly associated with music perception in CI users. A previous report showed that spectral-ripple discrimination is significantly correlated with speech recognition in quiet and in noise. This study also showed that speech recognition and music perception are also related to one another. Spectral-ripple discrimination ability seems to reflect a wide range of hearing abilities in CI users. The results suggest that materially improving spectral resolution could provide significant benefits in music and speech perception outcomes in CI users.

This study investigated the psychophysical abilities that contribute to music perception in cochlear implant users. Spectral-ripple discrimination ability contributed significantly to complex-tone pitch-direction discrimination, melody recognition, and timbre recognition. Nearly half of the variance in melody and timbre recognition was predicted jointly by spectral-ripple and pitch-direction discrimination thresholds. The results demonstrate that better representation of spectral and temporal variations of an acoustic sound could provide significant benefits in music perception. Significant correlations were also found between music and speech perception, suggesting that improving music perception in cochlear implant users will lead to improvements in speech perception as well.

1Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center; and 2Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.

This study was supported by NIH grants R01-DC007525, P30-DC04661, P50-DC00242, F31-DC009755, Cochlear Corporation, and Advanced Bionics Corporation. Neither company played any role in data analysis or the composition of this article.

Address for correspondence: Jong Ho Won, PhD, Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center, University of Washington, Box 357923, Seattle, WA 98195. E-mail: jhwon@uw.edu.

Received November 25, 2008; accepted May 10, 2010.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.