Perceptual "vowel spaces" of cochlear implant users: Implications for the study of auditory adaptation to spectral shift

James D. Harnsberger, Mario A. Svirsky, Adam R. Kaiser, David B. Pisoni, Richard Wright, Ted A. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations


Cochlear implant (CI) users differ in their ability to perceive and recognize speech sounds. Two possible reasons for such individual differences may lie in their ability to discriminate formant frequencies or to adapt to the spectrally shifted information presented by cochlear implants, a basalward shift related to the implant's depth of insertion in the cochlea. In the present study, we examined these two alternatives using a method-of-adjustment (MOA) procedure with 330 synthetic vowel stimuli varying in F1 and F2 that were arranged in a two-dimensional grid. Subjects were asked to label the synthetic stimuli that matched ten monophthongal vowels in visually presented words. Subjects then provided goodness ratings for the stimuli they had chosen. The subjects' responses to all ten vowels were used to construct individual perceptual "vowel spaces." If CI users fail to adapt completely to the basalward spectral shift, then the formant frequencies of their vowel categories should be shifted lower in both F1 and F2. However, with one exception, no systematic shifts were observed in the vowel spaces of CI users. Instead, the vowel spaces differed from one another in the relative size of their vowel categories. The results suggest that differences in formant frequency discrimination may account for the individual differences in vowel perception observed in cochlear implant users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2135-2145
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number5 I
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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