DOI: 10.1097/aud.0000000000001492 ISSN: 1538-4667

Synchronizing Automatic Gain Control in Bilateral Cochlear Implants Mitigates Dynamic Localization Deficits Introduced by Independent Bilateral Compression

M. Torben Pastore, Kathryn R. Pulling, Chen Chen, William A. Yost, Michael F. Dorman
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Otorhinolaryngology


The independence of left and right automatic gain controls (AGCs) used in cochlear implants can distort interaural level differences and thereby compromise dynamic sound source localization. We assessed the degree to which synchronizing left and right AGCs mitigates those difficulties as indicated by listeners’ ability to use the changes in interaural level differences that come with head movements to avoid front-back reversals (FBRs).


Broadband noise stimuli were presented from one of six equally spaced loudspeakers surrounding the listener. Sound source identification was tested for stimuli presented at 70 dBA (above AGC threshold) for 10 bilateral cochlear implant patients, under conditions where (1) patients remained stationary and (2) free head movements within ±30° were encouraged. These conditions were repeated for both synchronized and independent AGCs. The same conditions were run at 50 dBA, below the AGC threshold, to assess listeners’ baseline performance when AGCs were not engaged. In this way, the expected high variability in listener performance could be separated from effects of independent AGCs to reveal the degree to which synchronizing AGCs could restore localization performance to what it was without AGC compression.


The mean rate of FBRs was higher for sound stimuli presented at 70 dBA with independent AGCs, both with and without head movements, than at 50 dBA, suggesting that when AGCs were independently engaged they contributed to poorer front-back localization. When listeners remained stationary, synchronizing AGCs did not significantly reduce the rate of FBRs. When AGCs were independent at 70 dBA, head movements did not have a significant effect on the rate of FBRs. Head movements did have a significant group effect on the rate of FBRs at 50 dBA when AGCs were not engaged and at 70 dBA when AGCs were synchronized. Synchronization of AGCs, together with head movements, reduced the rate of FBRs to approximately what it was in the 50-dBA baseline condition. Synchronizing AGCs also had a significant group effect on listeners’ overall percent correct localization.


Synchronizing AGCs allowed for listeners to mitigate front-back confusions introduced by unsynchronized AGCs when head motion was permitted, returning individual listener performance to roughly what it was in the 50-dBA baseline condition when AGCs were not engaged. Synchronization of AGCs did not overcome localization deficiencies which were observed when AGCs were not engaged, and which are therefore unrelated to AGC compression.

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