What is it about?

Speech understanding in background noise continues to be a major problem for people with bionic auditory prostheses, called cochlear implants, even when they receive two of them. One technique to solve this problem is to use a directional microphone technique called “beamforming,” which allows sound from only one direction, like in front of you. (Think of it like a spotlight that you are pointing in front of you to help you see.) This helps understanding speech because it removes much of the background noise from other directions; however, it gives you “tunnel hearing,” meaning you cannot hear people that are not in front of you and greatly diminishes your sense of auditory space. We tested a new directional microphone technique called “Triple Beam,” that ended up improving speech understanding in noise without giving you “tunnel hearing” in bilateral cochlear-implant users. It still provided information from other directions and cochlear-implant users could still localize single sound sources.

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Why is it important?

Many people do not use beamforming with cochlear implants because they find the "tunnel hearing" experience so restricting. Providing good spatial hearing and good speech understanding in noise are major, and sometimes competing, goals for our research. Being able to provide both at the same time was a major step forward for us.


One approach to improving spatial hearing with cochlear implants is to give the brain what it wants or expects. This approach tries to fix the problem and remove the noise before the sound information is provided to the brain. Maybe trying to fix these problems at the front-end will be easier.

Dr. Matthew J Goupell
University System of Maryland

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Benefits of triple acoustic beamforming during speech-on-speech masking and sound localization for bilateral cochlear-implant users, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, May 2021, Acoustical Society of America (ASA),
DOI: 10.1121/10.0003933.
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