Implication of central asymmetry in speech processing on selecting the ear for cochlear implantation

Luc G Morris, Pavan S Mallur, J Thomas Roland, Susan B Waltzman, Anil K Lalwani
Otology & Neurotology 2007, 28 (1): 25-30

OBJECTIVE: Emerging evidence in auditory neuroscience suggests that central auditory pathways process speech asymmetrically. In concert with left cortical specialization for speech, a "right-ear advantage" in speech perception has been identified. The purpose of this study is to determine if this central asymmetry in speech processing has implications for selecting the ear for cochlear implantation.

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.

SETTING: Academic university medical center

PATIENTS: One hundred one adults with bilateral severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss

INTERVENTION: Cochlear implantation with the Nucleus 24 Contour device.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS: Patients were divided into two groups according to the ear implanted. Results were compared between left-ear- and right-ear-implanted patients. Further subgroup analysis was undertaken, limited to right-handed patients. Postoperative improvement on audiograms and scores on speech perception tests (Hearing in Noise test, City University of New York in quiet and in noise test, Consonant-Vowel Nucleus- Consonant words, and phonemes) at 1 year was compared between groups. Analysis of covariance was used to control for any intergroup differences in preoperative characteristics.

RESULTS: The groups were matched in age, duration of hearing loss, duration of hearing aid use, percentage implanted in the better hearing ear, and preoperative audiologic testing. Postoperatively, there were no differences between left-ear- and right-ear-implanted patients in improvement on speech recognition tests.

CONCLUSION: Despite central asymmetry in speech processing, our data do not support a right-ear advantage in speech perception outcomes with cochlear implantation. Therefore, among the many factors in choosing the ear for cochlear implantation, central asymmetry in speech processing does not seem to be a contributor to postoperative speech recognition outcomes.

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