OBJECTIVES: The number of bilateral adult cochlear implant (CI) users and bimodal CI users is expanding worldwide. The addition of a hearing aid (HA) in the contralateral non-implanted ear (bimodal) or a second CI (bilateral) can provide CI users with some of the benefits associated with listening with two ears. Our was to examine whether bilateral and bimodal CI users demonstrate binaural summation, binaural unmasking and a fluctuating masker benefit.
METHODS: Direct audio input was used to present stimuli to 10 bilateral and 10 bimodal CochlearTM CI users. Speech recognition in noise (speech reception threshold, SRT) was assessed monaurally, diotically (identical signals in both devices) and dichotically (antiphasic speech) with different masking noises (steady-state and interrupted), using the digits-in-noise test.
RESULTS: Bilateral CI users demonstrated a trend towards better SRTs with both CIs than with one CI. Bimodal CI users showed no difference between the bimodal SRT and the SRT for CI alone. No significant differences in SRT were found between the diotic and dichotic conditions for either group. Analyses of electrodograms created from bilateral stimuli demonstrated that substantial parts of the interaural speech cues were preserved in the Advanced Combination Encoder, an n-of-m channel selection speech coding strategy, used by the CI users. Speech recognition in noise was significantly better with interrupted noise than with steady-state masking noise for both bilateral and bimodal CI users.
CONCLUSION: Bilateral CI users demonstrated a trend towards binaural summation, but bimodal CI users did not. No binaural unmasking was demonstrated for either group of CI users. A large fluctuating masker benefit was found in both bilateral and bimodal CI users.