Performance variability on perceptual discrimination tasks in profoundly deaf adults with cochlear implants

Marcia J. Hay-McCutcheon, Nathaniel R. Peterson, David B. Pisoni, Karen Iler Kirk, Xin Yang, Jason Parton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to evaluate performance on two challenging listening tasks, talker and regional accent discrimination, and to assess variables that could have affected the outcomes. Study design: A prospective study using 35 adults with one cochlear implant (CI) or a CI and a contralateral hearing aid (bimodal hearing) was conducted. Adults completed talker and regional accent discrimination tasks. Methods: Two-alternative forced-choice tasks were used to assess talker and accent discrimination in a group of adults who ranged in age from 30 years old to 81 years old. Results: A large amount of performance variability was observed across listeners for both discrimination tasks. Three listeners successfully discriminated between talkers for both listening tasks, 14 participants successfully completed one discrimination task and 18 participants were not able to discriminate between talkers for either listening task. Some adults who used bimodal hearing benefitted from the addition of acoustic cues provided through a HA but for others the HA did not help with discrimination abilities. Acoustic speech feature analysis of the test signals indicated that both the talker speaking rate and the fundamental frequency (F0) helped with talker discrimination. For accent discrimination, findings suggested that access to more salient spectral cues was important for better discrimination performance. Conclusions: The ability to perform challenging discrimination tasks successfully likely involves a number of complex interactions between auditory and non-auditory pre- and post-implant factors. To understand why some adults with CIs perform similarly to adults with normal hearing and others experience difficulty discriminating between talkers, further research will be required with larger populations of adults who use unilateral CIs, bilateral CIs and bimodal hearing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-135
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Communication Disorders
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Bimodal hearing
  • Cochlear implants
  • Speech discrimination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • LPN and LVN
  • Speech and Hearing


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