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27.02.2019 | Research Article | Ausgabe 3/2019

Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology 3/2019

A Randomized Controlled Crossover Study of the Impact of Online Music Training on Pitch and Timbre Perception in Cochlear Implant Users

Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology > Ausgabe 3/2019
Nicole T. Jiam, Mickael L. Deroche, Patpong Jiradejvong, Charles J. Limb
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Cochlear implant (CI) biomechanical constraints result in impoverished spectral cues and poor frequency resolution, making it difficult for users to perceive pitch and timbre. There is emerging evidence that music training may improve CI-mediated music perception; however, much of the existing studies involve time-intensive and less readily accessible in-person music training paradigms, without rigorous experimental control paradigms. Online resources for auditory rehabilitation remain an untapped potential resource for CI users. Furthermore, establishing immediate value from an acute music training program may encourage CI users to adhere to post-implantation rehabilitation exercises. In this study, we evaluated the impact of an acute online music training program on pitch discrimination and timbre identification. Via a randomized controlled crossover study design, 20 CI users and 21 normal hearing (NH) adults were assigned to one of two arms. Arm-A underwent 1 month of online self-paced music training (intervention) followed by 1 month of audiobook listening (control). Arm-B underwent 1 month of audiobook listening followed by 1 month of music training. Pitch and timbre sensitivity scores were taken across three visits: (1) baseline, (2) after 1 month of intervention, and (3) after 1 month of control. We found that performance improved in pitch discrimination among CI users and NH listeners, with both online music training and audiobook listening. Music training, however, provided slightly greater benefit for instrument identification than audiobook listening. For both tasks, this improvement appears to be related to both fast stimulus learning as well as procedural learning. In conclusion, auditory training (with either acute participation in an online music training program or audiobook listening) may improve performance on untrained tasks of pitch discrimination and timbre identification. These findings demonstrate a potential role for music training in perceptual auditory appraisal of complex stimuli. Furthermore, this study highlights the importance and the need for more tightly controlled training studies in order to accurately evaluate the impact of rehabilitation training protocols on auditory processing.

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