Spatial acuity in 2-to-3-year-old children with normal acoustic hearing, unilateral cochlear implants, and bilateral cochlear implants

Tina M. Grieco-Calub*, Ruth Y. Litovsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES:: To measure spatial acuity on a right-left discrimination task in 2-to-3-year-old children who use a unilateral cochlear implant (UCI) or bilateral cochlear implants (BICIs); to test the hypothesis that BICI users perform significantly better when they use two CIs than when using a single CI, and that they perform better than the children in the UCI group; to determine how well children with CIs perform compared with children who have normal acoustic hearing (NH); to determine the effect of intensity roving on spatial acuity. DESIGN:: Three groups of children between 26 and 36 months of age participated in this study: 8 children with NH (mean age: 30.9 months), 12 children who use a UCI (mean age: 31.9 months), and 27 children who use BICIs (mean age: 30.7 months). Testing was conducted in a large sound-treated booth with loudspeakers positioned in a horizontal arc with a radius of 1.2 m. The observer-based psychophysical procedure was used to measure the children's ability to identify the hemifield containing the sound source (right versus left). Two methods were used for quantifying spatial acuity, an adaptive-tracking method and a fixed-angle method. In Experiment 1 an adaptive tracking algorithm was used to vary source angle, and the minimum audible angle (MAA), the smallest angle at which right-left discrimination performance is better than chance, was estimated. All three groups participated in Experiment 1. In Experiment 2 source angles were fixed at ±50 degrees, and performance was evaluated by computing the number of SDs above chance. Children in the UCI and BICI groups participated in Experiment 2. RESULTS:: In Experiment 1, when stimulus intensity was roved by 8 dB, MAA thresholds were 3.3 degrees to 30.2 degrees (mean = 14.5 degrees) and 5.7 degrees to 69.6 degrees (mean = 30.9 degrees) in the NH group and in the BICI group, respectively. When the intensity level was fixed for the BICI group, performance did not improve. Within the BICI group, 5 out of 27 children obtained MAA thresholds within one SD of their peers who have NH; all five had >12 months of bilateral listening experience. In Experiment 2, BICIs provided some advantages when the intensity level was fixed. First, the BICI group outperformed the UCI group. Second, children in the BICI group who repeated the task with their 1st CI alone had statistically significantly better performance when using both devices. In addition, when intensity roving was introduced, a larger percentage of children who had 12 or more months of BICI experience continued to perform above chance than children who had <12 months of BICI experience. Taken together, the results suggest that children with BICIs have spatial acuity that is better than when using their first CI alone and than that of their peers who use UCIs. In addition, longer durations of BICI use tend to result in better performance, although this cannot be generalized to all participants. CONCLUSION:: This report is consistent with a growing body of evidence that spatial-hearing skills can emerge in young children who use BICIs. The observation that these skills are not concomitantly emerging in age- and experience-matched children who use UCIs suggests that BICIs provide cues that are necessary for these spatial-hearing skills that UCIs do not provide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-572
Number of pages12
JournalEar and hearing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Speech and Hearing
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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