Differential Effects of Binaural Pitch Fusion Range on the Benefits of Voice Gender Differences in a "cocktail Party" Environment for Bimodal and Bilateral Cochlear Implant Users

Yonghee Oh, Nirmal Kumar Srinivasan, Curtis L. Hartling, Frederick J. Gallun, Lina A.J. Reiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Some cochlear implant (CI) users are fitted with a CI in each ear ("bilateral"), while others have a CI in one ear and a hearing aid in the other ("bimodal"). Presently, evaluation of the benefits of bilateral or bimodal CI fitting does not take into account the integration of frequency information across the ears. This study tests the hypothesis that CI listeners, especially bimodal CI users, with a more precise integration of frequency information across ears ("sharp binaural pitch fusion") will derive greater benefit from voice gender differences in a multi-talker listening environment. Design: Twelve bimodal CI users and twelve bilateral CI users participated. First, binaural pitch fusion ranges were measured using the simultaneous, dichotic presentation of reference and comparison stimuli (electric pulse trains for CI ears and acoustic tones for HA ears) in opposite ears, with reference stimuli fixed and comparison stimuli varied in frequency/electrode to find the range perceived as a single sound. Direct electrical stimulation was used in implanted ears through the research interface, which allowed selective stimulation of one electrode at a time, and acoustic stimulation was used in the non-implanted ears through the headphone. Second, speech-on-speech masking performance was measured to estimate masking release by voice gender difference between target and maskers (VGRM). The VGRM was calculated as the difference in speech recognition thresholds of target sounds in the presence of same-gender or different-gender maskers. Results: Voice gender differences between target and masker talkers improved speech recognition performance for the bimodal CI group, but not the bilateral CI group. The bimodal CI users who benefited the most from voice gender differences were those who had the narrowest range of acoustic frequencies that fused into a single sound with stimulation from a single electrode from the CI in the opposite ear. There was no similar voice gender difference benefit of narrow binaural fusion range for the bilateral CI users. Conclusions: The findings suggest that broad binaural fusion reduces the acoustical information available for differentiating individual talkers in bimodal CI users, but not for bilateral CI users. In addition, for bimodal CI users with narrow binaural fusion who benefit from voice gender differences, bilateral implantation could lead to a loss of that benefit and impair their ability to selectively attend to one talker in the presence of multiple competing talkers. The results suggest that binaural pitch fusion, along with an assessment of residual hearing and other factors, could be important for assessing bimodal and bilateral CI users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-329
Number of pages12
JournalEar and hearing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023


  • Binaural fusion
  • Cochlear implant
  • Hearing aid
  • Informational masking
  • Pitch
  • Voice gender release from masking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Speech and Hearing


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