This study tested a time-domain spectral enhancement algorithm that was recently proposed by Turicchia and Sarpeshkar [IEEE Trans. Speech Audio Proc. 13, 243-253 (2005)]. The algorithm uses a filter bank, with each filter channel comprising broadly tuned amplitude compression, followed by more narrowly tuned expansion (companding). Normal-hearing listeners were tested in their ability to recognize sentences processed through a noise-excited envelope vocoder that simulates aspects of cochlear-implant processing. The sentences were presented in a steady background noise at signal-to-noise ratios of 0, 3, and 6 dB and were either passed directly through an envelope vocoder, or were first processed by the companding algorithm. Using an eight-channel envelope vocoder, companding produced small but significant improvements in speech reception. Parametric variations of the companding algorithm showed that the improvement in intelligibility was robust to changes in filter tuning, whereas decreases in the time constants resulted in a decrease in intelligibility. Companding continued to provide a benefit when the number of vocoder frequency channels was increased to sixteen. When integrated within a sixteen-channel cochlear-implant simulator, companding also led to significant improvements in sentence recognition. Thus, companding may represent a readily implementable way to provide some speech recognition benefits to current cochlear-implant users.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported primarily by the Advanced Bionics Corporation. A.J.O. and A.M.S. are also supported by the National Institutes of Health [No. R01 DC 03909 and R01 DC 05216 (awarded to A.J.O.)]. We thank Johannes Lyzenga, Michael Stone, and one anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.