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Combining acoustic and electrical speech processing: Iowa/Nucleus hybrid implant

Bruce J Gantz, Christopher Turner
Acta Oto-laryngologica 2004, 124 (4): 344-7

OBJECTIVES: In this paper we test the concept of combining electrical stimulation for high-frequency sound with acoustic hearing for low-frequency information in the same ear. In addition, we test whether residual hearing can be preserved when an electrode is placed up to 10 mm into the inner ear, and whether the site of electrical stimulation influences speech perception.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Nine post-lingual adults with severe high-frequency hearing impairment were recruited to participate in the study. A single-subject clinical trial design was employed. A unique six-channel cochlear implant was designed for this clinical trial. The intracochlear electrodes were either 6 or 10 mm in length based on a Nucleus CI-24 multichannel implant. Monosyllabic word understanding and consonant identification in a recorded sound-only condition were used to assess changes in speech perception. Follow-up was > 12 months.

RESULTS: Acoustic hearing was preserved in all nine subjects. Preoperative monosyllabic word and sentence scores were unchanged in all subjects following implantation. A 30-40% improvement in consonant recognition occurred with the 10-mm electrode. The 10-mm electrode subjects were able to understand 83-90% of the monosyllabic words using the implant plus binaural hearing aids. Scores were more than doubled when compared to preoperative scores achieved with hearing aids only.

CONCLUSIONS: The human ear has the capability to integrate both acoustic and high-frequency electrically processed speech information. Placement of a short 10-mm electrode does not appear to damage residual low-frequency inner ear hair cell function, interfere with the micro-mechanics of normal cochlear vibration or decrease residual speech perception. The improvement in speech recognition was due primarily to the increased perception of higher-frequency consonantal speech cues. Such a device can provide a substantial benefit in terms of speech understanding to those with severe high-frequency hearing loss, while still maintaining the benefits of the residual lower-frequency acoustic hearing. The position of the electrode and the site of frequency information within the cochlea are shown to be important factors in the success of such a device.


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