A cochlear implant (CI) implements a variety of sound processing algorithms that seek to improve speech intelligibility. Typically, only a small number of parameter combinations are evaluated with recipients but the optimal configuration may differ for individuals. The present study evaluates a novel methodology which uses the output signal to noise ratio (OSNR) to predict complete psychometric functions that relate speech recognition to signal to noise ratio for individual CI recipients.
Speech scores from sentence-in-noise tests in a “reference” condition were mapped to OSNR and a psychometric function was fitted. The reference variability was defined as the root mean square error between the reference scores and the fitted curve. To predict individual scores in a different condition, OSNRs in that condition were calculated and the corresponding scores were read from the reference psychometric function. In a retrospective experiment, scores were predicted for each condition and subject in three existing data sets of sentence scores. The prediction error was defined as the root mean square error between observed and predicted scores. In data set 1, sentences were mixed with 20 talker babble or speech weighted noise and presented at 65 dB sound pressure level (SPL). An adaptive test procedure was used. Sound processing was advanced combinatorial encoding (ACE, Cochlear Limited) and ACE with ideal binary mask processing, with five different threshold settings. In data set 2, sentences were mixed with speech weighted noise, street-side city noise or cocktail party noise and presented at 65 dB SPL. An adaptive test procedure was used. Sound processing was ACE and ACE with two different noise reduction schemes. In data set 3, sentences were mixed with four-talker babble at two input SNRs and presented at levels of 55–89 dB SPL. Sound processing utilised three different automatic gain control configurations.
For data set 1, the median of individual prediction errors across all subjects, noise types and conditions, was 12% points, slightly better than the reference variability. The OSNR prediction method was inaccurate for the specific condition with a gain threshold of +10 dB. For data set 2, the median of individual prediction errors was 17% points and the reference variability was 11% points. For data set 3, the median prediction error was 9% points and the reference variability was 7% points. A Monte Carlo simulation found that the OSNR prediction method, which used reference scores and OSNR to predict individual scores in other conditions, was significantly more accurate (p < 0.01) than simply using reference scores as predictors.
The results supported the hypothesis that the OSNR prediction method could accurately predict individual recipient scores for a range of algorithms and noise types, for all but one condition. The medians of the individual prediction errors for each data set were accurate within 6% points of the reference variability and compared favourably with prediction methodologies in other recent studies. Overall, the novel OSNR-based prediction method shows promise as a tool to assist researchers and clinicians in the development or fitting of CI sound processors.