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Semitone frequency mapping to improve music representation for nucleus cochlear implants

Sherif Abdellatif Omran12*, Waikong Lai1, Michael Büchler1 and Norbert Dillier1

Author Affiliations

1 ENT Department, University Hospital Zurich, Frauenklinikstrasse 24, CH-8091 Zurich, Switzerland

2 Institute of Neuroinformatics, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland

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EURASIP Journal on Audio, Speech, and Music Processing 2011, 2011:2  doi:10.1186/1687-4722-2011-2

Published: 21 June 2011


The frequency-to-channel mapping for Cochlear implant (CI) signal processors was originally designed to optimize speech perception and generally does not preserve the harmonic structure of music sounds. An algorithm aimed at restoring the harmonic relationship of frequency components based on semitone mapping is presented in this article. Two semitone (Smt) based mappings in different frequency ranges were investigated. The first, Smt-LF, covers a range from 130 to 1502 Hz which encompasses the fundamental frequency of most musical instruments. The second, Smt-MF, covers a range from 440 to 5040 Hz, allocating frequency bands of sounds close to their characteristic tonotopical sites according to Greenwood's function. Smt-LF, in contrast, transposes the input frequencies onto locations with higher characteristic frequencies. A sequence of 36 synthetic complex tones (C3 to B5), each consisting of a fundamental and 4 harmonic overtones, was processed using the standard (Std), Smt-LF and Smt-MF mappings. The analysis of output signals showed that the harmonic structure between overtones of all complex tones was preserved using Smt mapping. Semitone mapping preserves the harmonic structure and may in turn improve music representation for Nucleus cochlear implants. The proposed semitone mappings incorporate the use of virtual channels to allow frequencies spanning three and a half octaves to be mapped to 43 stimulation channels. A pitch difference limen test was done with normal hearing subjects discriminating pairs of pure tones with different semitone intervals which were processed by a vocoder type simulator of CI sound processing. The results showed better performance with wider semitone intervals. However, no significant difference was found between 22 and 43 channels maps.

Semitone mapping; Melody; Music; Nucleus cochlear implant