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Preserved Acoustic Hearing in Cochlear Implantation Improves Speech Perception
06 August 2020 (online)
Background: With improved surgical techniques and electrode design, an increasing number of cochlear implant (CI) recipients have preserved acoustic hearing in the implanted ear, thereby resulting in bilateral acoustic hearing. There are currently no guidelines, however, for clinicians with respect to audiometric criteria and the recommendation of amplification in the implanted ear. The acoustic bandwidth necessary to obtain speech perception benefit from acoustic hearing in the implanted ear is unknown. Additionally, it is important to determine if, and in which listening environments, acoustic hearing in both ears provides more benefit than hearing in just one ear, even with limited residual hearing.
Purpose: The purposes of this study were to (1) determine whether acoustic hearing in an ear with a CI provides as much speech perception benefit as an equivalent bandwidth of acoustic hearing in the nonimplanted ear, and (2) determine whether acoustic hearing in both ears provides more benefit than hearing in just one ear.
Research Design: A repeated-measures, within-participant design was used to compare performance across listening conditions.
Study Sample: Seven adults with CIs and bilateral residual acoustic hearing (hearing preservation) were recruited for the study.
Data Collection and Analysis: Consonant-nucleus-consonant word recognition was tested in four conditions: CI alone, CI + acoustic hearing in the nonimplanted ear, CI + acoustic hearing in the implanted ear, and CI + bilateral acoustic hearing. A series of low-pass filters were used to examine the effects of acoustic bandwidth through an insert earphone with amplification. Benefit was defined as the difference among conditions. The benefit of bilateral acoustic hearing was tested in both diffuse and single-source background noise. Results were analyzed using repeated-measures analysis of variance.
Results: Similar benefit was obtained for equivalent acoustic frequency bandwidth in either ear. Acoustic hearing in the nonimplanted ear provided more benefit than the implanted ear only in the wideband condition, most likely because of better audiometric thresholds (>500 Hz) in the nonimplanted ear. Bilateral acoustic hearing provided more benefit than unilateral hearing in either ear alone, but only in diffuse background noise.
Conclusions: Results support use of amplification in the implanted ear if residual hearing is present. The benefit of bilateral acoustic hearing (hearing preservation) should not be tested in quiet or with spatially coincident speech and noise, but rather in spatially separated speech and noise (e.g., diffuse background noise).