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Otol Neurotol. 2011 Aug;32(6):956-61. doi: 10.1097/MAO.0b013e31821f473b.

Cochlear implantation in children with cochlear nerve absence or deficiency.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, TX 75390, USA.



To evaluate speech perception after cochlear implantation in children with cochlear nerve absence or deficiency.


A retrospective case review was performed to identify children who underwent cochlear implantation with cochlear nerve absence or deficiency. The cochlear nerve was evaluated by high-resolution three-dimensional T2-weighted fast spin echo MR in the oblique sagittal and axial planes. A deficient cochlear nerve was defined as a cochlear nerve that is smaller in diameter when compared with the adjacent facial nerve in the midportion of the internal auditory canal. The cochlear nerve was considered absent if there was no imaging evidence of a cochlear nerve. Speech awareness threshold and the speech perception category score were used to measure speech perception after cochlear implantation.


Seven children who underwent cochlear implantation in an ear without imaging evidence of a cochlear nerve were identified. One child developed early closed-set speech recognition. The other 6 children developed only speech detection or pattern perception. Two children underwent cochlear implantation with a deficient cochlear nerve. One developed consistent closed-set word recognition and the other developed early closed-set word recognition. The mean follow-up time for all patients was 3.8 years (range, 1.1-7.1 yr).


Cochlear nerve deficiency is not an uncommon cause for profound sensorineural hearing loss and presents a challenge in the decision-making process regarding whether to proceed with a cochlear implant. Children with a deficient but visible cochlear nerve on magnetic resonance image can expect to show some speech understanding after cochlear implantation; however, these children do not develop speech understanding to the level of implanted children with normal cochlear nerves. Children with an absent cochlear nerve determined by magnetic resonance imaging can be expected to have limited postimplantation sound and speech awareness.

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