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Binaural Pitch Fusion in Bilateral Cochlear Implant Users

Reiss, Lina A., J.; Fowler, Jennifer, R.; Hartling, Curtis, L.; Oh, Yonghee

doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000497
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Objectives: Binaural pitch fusion is the fusion of stimuli that evoke different pitches between the ears into a single auditory image. Individuals who use hearing aids or bimodal cochlear implants (CIs) experience abnormally broad binaural pitch fusion, such that sounds differing in pitch by as much as 3–4 octaves are fused across ears, leading to spectral averaging and speech perception interference. The goal of this study was to determine if adult bilateral CI users also experience broad binaural pitch fusion.

Design: Stimuli were pulse trains delivered to individual electrodes. Fusion ranges were measured using simultaneous, dichotic presentation of reference and comparison stimuli in opposite ears, and varying the comparison stimulus to find the range that fused with the reference stimulus.

Results: Bilateral CI listeners had binaural pitch fusion ranges varying from 0 to 12 mm (average 6.1 ± 3.9 mm), where 12 mm indicates fusion over all electrodes in the array. No significant correlations of fusion range were observed with any subject factors related to age, hearing loss history, or hearing device history, or with any electrode factors including interaural electrode pitch mismatch, pitch match bandwidth, or within-ear electrode discrimination abilities.

Conclusions: Bilateral CI listeners have abnormally broad fusion, similar to hearing aid and bimodal CI listeners. This broad fusion may explain the variability of binaural benefits for speech perception in quiet and in noise in bilateral CI users.

Department of Otolaryngology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon.

Received March 15, 2017; accepted July 28, 2017.

This research was supported by grants R01 DC013307 and P30 DC010755 from the National Institutes of Deafness and Communication Disorders and National Institutes of Health.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and text of this article on the journal’s Web site (www.ear-hearing.com).

Address for correspondence: Lina Reiss, Oregon Hearing Research Center, Oregon Health and Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR 97239, USA. E-mail: reiss@ohsu.edu

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