In this study, spectral properties of speech sounds were used to test functional spectral resolution in people who use cochlear implants (CIs). Specifically, perception of the /ba/-/da/ contrast was tested using two spectral cues: Formant transitions (a fine-resolution cue) and spectral tilt (a coarse-resolution cue). Higher weighting of the formant cues was used as an index of better spectral cue perception. Participants included 19 CI listeners and 10 listeners with normal hearing (NH), for whom spectral resolution was explicitly controlled using a noise vocoder with variable carrier filter widths to simulate electrical current spread. Perceptual weighting of the two cues was modeled with mixed-effects logistic regression, and was found to systematically vary with spectral resolution. The use of formant cues was greatest for NH listeners for unprocessed speech, and declined in the two vocoded conditions. Compared to NH listeners, CI listeners relied less on formant transitions, and more on spectral tilt. Cue-weighting results showed moderately good correspondence with word recognition scores. The current approach to testing functional spectral resolution uses auditory cues that are known to be important for speech categorization, and can thus potentially serve as the basis upon which CI processing strategies and innovations are tested.
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© 2015 Acoustical Society of America.