Assessment of Spectral and Temporal Resolution in Cochlear Implant Users Using Psychoacoustic Discrimination and Speech Cue Categorization

Matthew B. Winn, Jong Ho Won, Il Joon Moon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study was conducted to measure auditory perception by cochlear implant users in the spectral and temporal domains, using tests of either categorization (using speech-based cues) or discrimination (using conventional psychoacoustic tests). The authors hypothesized that traditional nonlinguistic tests assessing spectral and temporal auditory resolution would correspond to speech-based measures assessing specific aspects of phonetic categorization assumed to depend on spectral and temporal auditory resolution. The authors further hypothesized that speech-based categorization performance would ultimately be a superior predictor of speech recognition performance, because of the fundamental nature of speech recognition as categorization. Design: Nineteen cochlear implant listeners and 10 listeners with normal hearing participated in a suite of tasks that included spectral ripple discrimination, temporal modulation detection, and syllable categorization, which was split into a spectral cue-based task (targeting the /ba/-/da/ contrast) and a timing cue-based task (targeting the /b/-/p/ and /d/-/t/ contrasts). Speech sounds were manipulated to contain specific spectral or temporal modulations (formant transitions or voice onset time, respectively) that could be categorized. Categorization responses were quantified using logistic regression to assess perceptual sensitivity to acoustic phonetic cues. Word recognition testing was also conducted for cochlear implant listeners. Results: Cochlear implant users were generally less successful at utilizing both spectral and temporal cues for categorization compared with listeners with normal hearing. For the cochlear implant listener group, spectral ripple discrimination was significantly correlated with the categorization of formant transitions; both were correlated with better word recognition. Temporal modulation detection using 100- and 10-Hz-modulated noise was not correlated either with the cochlear implant subjects' categorization of voice onset time or with word recognition. Word recognition was correlated more closely with categorization of the controlled speech cues than with performance on the psychophysical discrimination tasks. Conclusions: When evaluating people with cochlear implants, controlled speech-based stimuli are feasible to use in tests of auditory cue categorization, to complement traditional measures of auditory discrimination. Stimuli based on specific speech cues correspond to counterpart nonlinguistic measures of discrimination, but potentially show better correspondence with speech perception more generally. The ubiquity of the spectral (formant transition) and temporal (voice onset time) stimulus dimensions across languages highlights the potential to use this testing approach even in cases where English is not the native language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e377-e390
JournalEar and hearing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Cochlear implant
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Spectral resolution
  • Speech cues
  • Temporal resolution


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