Musical Interval Perception With a Cochlear Implant Alone and With a Contralateral Normal Hearing Ear

David M. Landsberger, Natalia Stupak, Cori Dahl, Justin M. Aronoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Music through a cochlear implant (CI) is described as out-of-tune, suggesting that musical intervals are not accurately provided by a CI. One potential reason is that pitch may be insufficiently conveyed to provide reliable intervals. Another potential reason is that the size of intervals is distorted through a CI as they would be when produced by a mistuned piano. To measure intervals through a CI, listeners selected prerecorded vowels with different fundamental frequencies to represent each note in Happy Birthday. Each listener had contralateral normal hearing (NH); repeating the experiment with their NH ear allowed for a within-subject control. Additionally, the effect of listening simultaneously to both a CI and NH ear was measured. The resulting versions of Happy Birthday were analyzed in terms of their contours, interval sizes, magnitudes, consistency, and direction. Intervals with NH ears ranged from perfect to uncorrelated with target intervals. Chosen interval size with the CI was poorer than with the NH ear for all subjects. Across listeners, chosen intervals with the CI ranged from highly correlated to uncorrelated with target intervals. That CI intervals were highly correlated with target intervals for some listeners suggests that accurate intervals can be provided through a CI. For some listeners, chosen intervals were larger than target intervals, suggesting that intervals may be perceived as too small. Overall, intervals with the combination of the NH and CI ears were similar to those with the NH ear alone, suggesting that the addition of a CI has little-to-no effect on interval perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTrends in Hearing
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • cochlear implant
  • interval
  • music
  • pitch
  • single-sided deafness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Speech and Hearing


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