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Hear Res. 2019 Jan;371:19-27. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2018.10.015. Epub 2018 Oct 29.

Improved interaural timing of acoustic nerve stimulation affects sound localization in single-sided deaf cochlear implant users.

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Department for Hearing, Speech and Voice Disorders, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria. Electronic address:
Saxonian Cochlear Implant Center, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Technical University of Dresden, Germany.
Department for Hearing, Speech and Voice Disorders, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria.


The main impairment associated with single-sided deafness (SSD) is the loss of binaural hearing. Currently, the most effective treatment to compensate for this deficit is to supply patients suffering from SSD with a cochlear implant (CI) in the deaf ear. With this approach binaural hearing abilities can be restored to a certain extent, which is expressed in an improvement in such patients with regard to sound source localization and speech comprehension in noise after receipt of a CI. However, binaural performance of these listeners does not reach the level of normal-hearing listeners. One of the reasons for this might be that the electrical stimulation via CI and the physiological stimulation via the intact ear are not synchronized: the CI transmits the information to the auditory nerve with different timing than does the intact inner ear. As a result, there is a timing mismatch of the information transfer between the left and the right side, which may account for the limited binaural performance. The effective mismatch in timing depends on the CI system because of different stimulation strategies implemented in devices from different manufacturers. For the particular CI device used in this study (MED-EL Mi1000/Mi1200) electrical stimulation led to faster activation of the auditory nerve than natural for a wide frequency range. In particular, electrical stimulation was about 1 to up to 2 ms ahead of time for frequencies above 1.5 kHz. Hence, it was hypothesized that information transfer between the left and the right ear can be tuned by delaying the CI signal. The goal of the present study was to investigate whether such a delay in the CI signal affects binaural performance of CI users with SSD. For this purpose, sound source localization and speech perception in noise were tested in a sample of 12 CI users with SSD (mean age 51 ± 12 years). The tests were performed for four different delay times of the CI signal applied spontaneously (0.5, 1, 2 and 4 ms) and for the base line condition "no delay" in the CI signal (i.e. everyday use). It was found that delaying the signal had a significant impact on sound source localization. Speech perception in noise was affected, but less pronounced than was sound localization. Regarding sound source localization, a signal delay of 1 ms applied to this particular CI device produced the best performance in our patients. It is concluded that improving the synchronisation between the CI-transferred signal and the naturally transferred signal could increase binaural hearing performance in CI users with SSD.


Binaural hearing; Cochlear implant; Interaural timing; Single-sided deafness; Sound localization; Speech in noise

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