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Title: Obstruent acoustic landmark enhancement for cochlear implants
Author: Webb, Cherith Mercedes
ISNI:       0000 0004 5916 6101
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2015
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Cochlear implant users are typically able to achieve high levels of speech recognition in quiet but struggle to follow speech even in moderate levels of background noise. It may be possible to improve cochlear implant users’ speech perception scores in noise, by making more efficient use of the limited bandwidth available for transmitting important speech information, rather than increasing the amount of information transmitted. Acoustic landmarks are locations in the speech signal which are rich in information and allow a listener to identify a particular speech sound as a vowel, sonorant consonant or obstruent consonant; it is around these regions that important speech cues tend to be concentrated. Obstruent consonants are signalled by sudden amplitude and spectral changes and the onset/offset of a period of noise. It has been shown that the auditory system is particularly responsive to rapid spectral changes, manifested as increased firing rates of auditory nerve fibres, particularly at onsets of signals. Cochlear implant users commonly confuse speech sounds with rapidly changing spectral patterns, possibly due to the poor transmission of obstruent landmark information. The aim of the present work was to develop an obstruent landmark enhancement strategy which could be integrated into current cochlear implant processing. The first stage of this process required the identification of obstruent landmarks from the noise-mixed speech stimuli. An existing automatic landmark detection algorithm did not achieve the high levels of accuracy required for use in the present study and so a set of hand-generated labels were created, and used to guide the proposed obstruent landmark enhancement strategy. A series of cochlear implant simulation experiments were conducted to help evaluate the strategy and guide further developments. Results from the simulation studies suggest that the proposed method of obstruent landmark enhancement does not help to improve speech recognition in noise for normal hearing listeners listening to a cochlear implant simulation. It is likely that the strategy outlined in this thesis did not help to improve the saliency of obstruent landmark events as the enhancement was applied to the noise as well as the target speech signal, making it difficult for listeners to resolve the boosted landmark information. However, the results also highlight the limitations of using cochlear implant simulations to evaluate the strategy and so the findings are not necessarily a predictor of actual cochlear implant user performance.
Supervisor: Verschuur, Carl Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available