Voluntary stream segregation was investigated in cochlear implant (CI) users and normal-hearing (NH) listeners using a segregation-promoting objective approach which evaluated the role of spectral and amplitude-modulation (AM) rate separations on stream segregation and its build-up. Sequences of 9 or 3 pairs of A and B narrowband noise (NBN) bursts were presented which differed in either center frequency of the noise band, the AM-rate, or both. In some sequences (delayed sequences), the last B burst was delayed by 35 ms from their otherwise-steady temporal position. In the other sequences (no-delay sequences), the last B bursts were temporally advanced from 0 to 10 ms. A single interval yes/no procedure was utilized to measure participants’ sensitivity (d') in identifying delayed vs. no-delay sequences. A higher d' value showed the higher ability to segregate the A and B subsequences. For NH listeners, performance improved with each spectral separation. However, for CI users, performance was only significantly better for the condition with the largest spectral separation. Additionally, performance was significantly poorer for the largest AM-rate separation than for the condition with no AM-rate separation for both groups. The significant effect of sequence duration in both groups indicated that listeners made more improvement with lengthening the duration of stimulus sequences, supporting the build-up effect. The results of this study suggest that CI users are less able than NH listeners to segregate NBN bursts into different auditory streams when they are moderately separated in the spectral domain. Contrary to our hypothesis, our results indicate that AM-rate separation may interfere with the segregation of streams of NBN. Additionally, our results add evidence to the literature that CI users build up stream segregation at a rate comparable to NH listeners, when the inter-stream spectral separations are adequately large.
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First published by Frontiers Media: Matz AF, Nie Y and Wheeler HJ (2022) Auditory stream segregation of amplitude-modulated narrowband noise in cochlear implant users and individuals with normal hearing. Front. Psychol. 13:927854. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.927854