The effect of automatic gain control structure and release time on cochlear implant speech intelligibility

Phyu P. Khing, Brett A. Swanson, Eliathamby Ambikairajah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Nucleus cochlear implant systems incorporate a fast-acting front-end automatic gain control (AGC), sometimes called a compression limiter. The objective of the present study was to determine the effect of replacing the front-end compression limiter with a newly proposed envelope profile limiter. A secondary objective was to investigate the effect of AGC speed on cochlear implant speech intelligibility. The envelope profile limiter was located after the filter bank and reduced the gain when the largest of the filter bank envelopes exceeded the compression threshold. The compression threshold was set equal to the saturation level of the loudness growth function (i.e. the envelope level that mapped to the maximum comfortable current level), ensuring that no envelope clipping occurred. To preserve the spectral profile, the same gain was applied to all channels. Experiment 1 compared sentence recognition with the front-end limiter and with the envelope profile limiter, each with two release times (75 and 625 ms). Six implant recipients were tested in quiet and in four-talker babble noise, at a high presentation level of 89 dB SPL. Overall, release time had a larger effect than the AGC type. With both AGC types, speech intelligibility was lower for the 75 ms release time than for the 625 ms release time. With the shorter release time, the envelope profile limiter provided higher group mean scores than the front-end limiter in quiet, but there was no significant difference in noise. Experiment 2 measured sentence recognition in noise as a function of presentation level, from 55 to 89 dB SPL. The envelope profile limiter with 625 ms release time yielded better scores than the front-end limiter with 75 ms release time. A take-home study showed no clear pattern of preferences. It is concluded that the envelope profile limiter is a feasible alternative to a front-end compression limiter.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere82263
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


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