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The University of Southampton
Engineering

Research project: Electro-haptic hearing: Using tactile stimulation to improve cochlear implant listening

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Due to the limited amount of sound information that can be transmitted through a cochlear implant (CI), most CI users struggle to understand speech in noisy environments and have poor music perception. For information about this project please contact Dr Mark Fletcher (M.D.Fletcher@soton.ac.uk).

Testing sound vibrations

For information about this project please contact Dr Mark Fletcher (M.D.Fletcher@soton.ac.uk). 

We have recently shown that speech-in-noise performance and music perception can be improved in CI users by presenting the missing or degraded sound information through another sensory pathway. Our latest research shows compelling evidence that, by combining the electrical signal from the CI with a haptic signal (“electro-haptic stimulation”), speech-in-noise performance can be improved. There are three crucial features of our approach that make it particularly promising for a real-world application: (1) the speech envelope used for the tactile signal is extracted from the speech-in-noise signal using a signal processing approach that is computationally lightweight and suitable for real-time processing; (2) tactile stimulation is delivered to the wrist, which is a suitable site for real-world use; and (3) a vibration intensity is used that can be produced by a near-silent, inexpensive, compact device with low power consumption. Using this approach, we have demonstrated substantial benefit to speech-in-noise performance in CI users. In parallel to this work, members of this project have demonstrated that providing musical information visually enhances the musical experience of CI users and that providing musical cues through tactile stimulation can help hearing-impaired listeners to better “feel” and enjoy music. Collectively, this work has shown that electro-haptic stimulation (EHS) could play an important role in improving both speech-in-noise performance and music perception in CI users. This project aims to further demonstrate and maximize the benefits of EHS to speech-in-noise performance and music appreciation. For more information on our work please visit our project page.

The project is supported by grants from The Oticon Foundation, The Danish Innovation Fund, and King Saud University.

Related research groups

Human Sciences Group

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