Event-Related Potentials of Single-Sided Deaf Cochlear Implant Users: Using a Semantic Oddball Paradigm in Noise
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Introduction: In individuals with single-sided deafness (SSD), who are characterised by profound hearing loss in one ear and normal hearing in the contralateral ear, binaural input is no longer present. A cochlear implant (CI) can restore functional hearing in the profoundly deaf ear, with previous literature demonstrating improvements in speech-in-noise intelligibility with the CI. However, we currently have limited understanding of the neural processes involved (e.g., how the brain integrates the electrical signal produced by the CI with the acoustic signal produced by the normal hearing ear) and how modulation of these processes with a CI contributes to improved speech-in-noise intelligibility. Using a semantic oddball paradigm presented in the presence of background noise, this study aims to investigate how the provision of CI impacts speech-in-noise perception of SSD-CI users. Method: Task performance (reaction time, reaction time variability, target accuracy, subjective listening effort) and high density electroencephalography from twelve SSD-CI participants were recorded, while they completed a semantic acoustic oddball task. Reaction time was defined as the time taken for a participant to press the response button after stimulus onset. All participants completed the oddball task in three different free-field conditions with the speech and noise coming from different speakers. The three tasks were: (1) CI-On in background noise, (2) CI-Off in background noise, and (3) CI-On without background noise (Control). Task performance and electroencephalography data (N2N4 and P3b) were recorded for each condition. Speech in noise and sound localisation ability were also measured. Results: Reaction time was significantly different between all tasks with CI-On (M [SE] = 809 [39.9] ms) having faster RTs than CI-Off (M [SE] = 845 [39.9] ms) and Control (M [SE] = 785 [39.9] ms) being the fastest condition. The Control condition exhibited significantly shorter N2N4 and P3b area latency compared to the other two conditions. However, despite these differences noticed in RTs and area latency, we observed similar results between all three conditions for N2N4 and P3b difference area. Conclusion: The inconsistency between the behavioural and neural results suggests that EEG may not be a reliable measure of cognitive effort. This rationale is further supported by different explanations used in past studies to explain N2N4 and P3b effects. Future studies should look to alternative measures of auditory processing (e.g., pupillometry) to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying auditory processes that facilitate speech-in-noise intelligibility.
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