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Combining acoustic and electrical hearing


  • Bruce J. Gantz MD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.A.
    • Bruce J. Gantz, MD, Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, 200 Hawkins Drive, 21201 PFP, Iowa City IA 52242–1078, U.S.A.
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  • Christopher W. Turner PhD

    1. Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.A.
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Objectives/Hypothesis: The concept of combining electrical stimulation for high-frequency sound with acoustic hearing for low-frequency information was tested. In addition, whether residual hearing can be preserved when an electrode is placed into the inner ear up to 10 mm and whether place of electrical stimulation influences speech perception were tested. Study Design: A single-subject clinical trial design was employed. Methods: Six postlingual adults with severe high-frequency hearing impairment were recruited to participate in the study. A new six-channel cochlear implant was designed for the 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 testing in a recorded sound-only condition were used to assess changes in speech perception. Follow-up was greater than 12 months. Results: Acoustic hearing was preserved in all six subjects (n = 3,6-mm electrodes; n = 3,10-mm electrodes). Preoperative monosyllabic word and sentence scores were unchanged in all subjects following implantation. A 30% to 40% improvement in consonant recognition occurred with the 10-mm electrode. The subjects with 10-mm electrodes were able to understand 83% to 90% of the monosyllabic words using the implant plus binaural hearing aids. Scores were more than doubled when compared with preoperative scores with hearing aids only. Conclusion: 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, and this improvement took several months to become apparent. Such a device can provide a substantial benefit in speech understanding to individuals 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 place of frequency information within the cochlea were shown to be important factors in the success of such a device.