Spatial release from masking (SRM) was measured in groups of children with bilateral cochlear implants (BiCIs, average ages 6.0 and 7.9 yr) and with normal hearing (NH, average ages 5.0 and 7.8 yr). Speech reception thresholds (SRTs) were measured for target speech in front (0°), and interferers in front, distributed asymmetrically toward the right (+90°/+90°) or distributed symmetrically toward the right and left (+90°/−90°). In the asymmetrical condition both monaural “better ear” and binaural cues are available. In the symmetrical condition, listeners rely heavily on binaural cues to segregate sources. SRM was computed as the difference between SRTs in the front condition and SRTs in either the asymmetrical or symmetrical conditions. Results showed that asymmetrical SRM was smaller in BiCI users than NH children. Furthermore, NH children showed symmetrical SRM, suggesting they are able to use binaural cues for source segregation, whereas children with BiCIs had minimal or absent symmetrical SRM. These findings suggest that children who receive BiCIs can segregate speech from noise under conditions that maximize monaural better ear cues. Limitations in the CI devices likely play an important role in limiting SRM. Thus, improvement in spatial hearing abilities in children with BiCIs may require binaural processing strategies.

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