Purpose: Pitch reception poses challenges for individuals with cochlear implants (CIs), and adding a hearing aid (HA) in the nonimplanted ear is potentially beneficial. The current study used fine-scale synthetic speech stimuli to investigate the bimodal benefit for lexical tone categorization in Mandarin-speaking kindergarteners using a CI and an HA in opposite ears. Method: The data were collected from 16 participants who were required to complete two classical tasks for speech categorical perception (CP) with CI + HA device condition and CI alone condition. Linear mixed-effects models were constructed to evaluate the identification and discrimination scores across different device conditions. Results: The bimodal kindergarteners showed CP for the continuum varying from Mandarin Tone 1 and Tone 2. Moreover, the additional acoustic information from the contralateral HA contributes to improved lexical tone categorization, with a steeper slope, a higher discrimination score of between-category stimuli pair, and an improved peakedness score (i.e., an increased benefit magnitude for discriminations of between-category over within-category pairs) for the CI + HA condition than the CI alone condition. The bimodal kindergarteners with better residual hearing thresholds at 250 Hz level in the nonimplanted ear could perceive lexical tones more categorically. Conclusion: The enhanced CP results with bimodal listening provide clear evidence for the clinical practice to fit a contralateral HA in the nonimplanted ear in kindergarteners with unilateral CIs with direct benefits from the low-frequency acoustic hearing.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by grants from the Major Program of National Social Science Foundation of China (No. 18ZDA293) awarded to H. Ding and Y. Zhang. Y. Zhang received additional support from the University of Minnesota’s Brain Imaging Grant and Grand Challenges Exploratory Research Grant for
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