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The Contribution of a Frequency-Compression Hearing Aid to Contralateral Cochlear Implant Performance
06 August 2020 (online)
Background: Frequency-lowering signal processing in hearing aids has re-emerged as an option to improve audibility of the high frequencies by expanding the input bandwidth. Few studies have investigated the usefulness of the scheme as an option for bimodal users (i.e., combined use of a cochlear implant and a contralateral hearing aid). In this study, that question was posed.
Purpose: The purposes of this study were (1) to determine if frequency compression was a better bimodal option than conventional amplification and (2) to determine the impact of a frequency-compression hearing aid on speech recognition abilities.
Research Design: There were two separate experiments in this study. The first experiment investigated the contribution of a frequency-compression hearing aid to contralateral cochlear implant (CI) performance for localization and speech perception in noise. The second experiment assessed monaural consonant and vowel perception in quiet using the frequency-compression and conventional hearing aid without the use of a contralateral CI or hearing aid.
Study Sample: Ten subjects fitted with a cochlear implant and hearing aid participated in the first experiment. Seventeen adult subjects with a cochlear implant and hearing aid or two hearing aids participated in the second experiment. To be included, subjects had to have a history of postlingual deafness, a moderate or moderate-to-severe hearing loss, and have not worn this type of frequency-lowering hearing aid previously.
Data Collection and Analysis: In the first experiment, performance using the frequency-compression and conventional hearing aids was assessed on tests of sound localization, speech perception in a background of noise, and two self-report questionnaires. In the second experiment, consonant and vowel perception in quiet was assessed monaurally for the two conditions. In both experiments, subjects alternated daily between a frequency-compression and conventional hearing aid for 2 mo. The parameters of frequency compression were set individually for each subject, and audibility was measured for the frequency compression and conventional hearing aid programs by comparing estimations of the Speech Intelligibility Index (SII) using a modified algorithm (Bentler et al, 2011). In both experiments, the outcome measures were administered following the hearing aid fitting to assess performance at baseline and after 2 mo of use.
Results: For this group of subjects, the results revealed no significant difference between the frequency-compression and conventional hearing aid on tests of localization and consonant recognition. Spondee-in-noise and vowel perception scores were significantly higher with the conventional hearing aid compared to the frequency-compression hearing aid after 2 mo of use.
Conclusions: These results suggest that, for the subjects in this study, frequency compression is not a better bimodal option than conventional amplification. In addition, speech perception may be negatively influenced by frequency compression because formant frequencies are too severely compressed and can no longer be distinguished.