J Am Acad Audiol 2020; 31(07): 547-550
DOI: 10.1055/s-0040-1709444
Research Article

Bilateral Cochlear Implants Allow Listeners to Benefit from Visual Information When Talker Location is Varied

Michael F. Dorman
1  Department of Speech and Hearing Science, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
Sarah Natale
1  Department of Speech and Hearing Science, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
Alissa Knickerbocker
1  Department of Speech and Hearing Science, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
› Author Affiliations
Funding This work was conducted at Arizona State University and was supported by a grant from MED-EL Corporation.


Background Previous research has found that when the location of a talker was varied and an auditory prompt indicated the location of the talker, the addition of visual information produced a significant and large improvement in speech understanding for listeners with bilateral cochlear implants (CIs) but not with a unilateral CI. Presumably, the sound-source localization ability of the bilateral CI listeners allowed them to orient to the auditory prompt and benefit from visual information for the subsequent target sentence.

Purpose The goal of this project was to assess the robustness of previous research by using a different test environment, a different CI, different test material, and a different response measure.

Research Design Nine listeners fit with bilateral CIs were tested in a simulation of a crowded restaurant. Auditory–visual (AV) sentence material was presented from loudspeakers and video monitors at 0, +90, and −90 degrees. Each trial started with the presentation of an auditory alerting phrase from one of the three target loudspeakers followed by an AV target sentence from that loudspeaker/monitor. On each trial, the two nontarget monitors showed the speaker mouthing a different sentence. Sentences were presented in noise in four test conditions: one CI, one CI plus vision, bilateral CIs, and bilateral CIs plus vision.

Results Mean percent words correct for the four test conditions were: one CI, 43%; bilateral CI, 60%; one CI plus vision, 52%; and bilateral CI plus vision, 84%. Visual information did not significantly improve performance in the single CI conditions but did improve performance in the bilateral CI conditions. The magnitude of improvement for two CIs versus one CI in the AV condition was approximately twice that for two CIs versus one CI in the auditory condition.

Conclusions Our results are consistent with previous data showing the large value of bilateral implants in a complex AV listening environment. The results indicate that the value of bilateral CIs for speech understanding is significantly underestimated in standard, auditory-only, single-speaker, test environments.

Publication History

Received: 26 September 2019

Accepted: 13 January 2020

Publication Date:
27 April 2020 (online)

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