Aug 2019 Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

Speech-in-noise perception is a major problem for users of cochlear implants (CIs), especially with non-stationary background noise. Noise-reduction algorithms have produced benefits but relied on a priori information about the target speaker and/or background noise. A recurrent neural network (RNN) algorithm was developed for enhancing speech in non-stationary noise and its benefits were evaluated for speech perception, using both objective measures and experiments with CI simulations and CI users. The RNN was trained using speech from many talkers mixed with multi-talker or traffic noise recordings. Its performance was evaluated using speech from an unseen talker mixed with different noise recordings of the same class, either babble or traffic noise. Objective measures indicated benefits of using a recurrent over a feed-forward architecture, and predicted better speech intelligibility with than without the processing. The experimental results showed significantly improved intelligibility of speech in babble noise but not in traffic noise. CI subjects rated the processed stimuli as significantly better in terms of speech distortions, noise intrusiveness, and overall quality than unprocessed stimuli for both babble and traffic noise. These results extend previous findings for CI users to mostly unseen acoustic conditions with non-stationary noise.

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