Auditory Brainstem Implant in Posttraumatic Cochlear Nerve Avulsion

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Patients aged over 12 years with neurofibromatosis type 2 are considered candidates for an auditory brainstem implant (ABI). This study extends the indication criteria of ABI to subjects with profound hearing loss due to damaged cochleas and/or cochlear nerves (CNs) following head injuries. In our department, over the period from April 1997 to November 2002, 32 patients, 23 adults and 9 children, were fitted with ABIs. Their ages ranged from 14 months to 70 years. These patients were suffering from a variety of tumor (13 subjects) and nontumor CN or cochlear diseases (19 subjects). Six patients, 5 adults and 1 child, had profound hearing loss following head injury. Their mean age was 25 years (range: 16–48 years). Five were male and 1 female. The retrosigmoid approach was used in all 6 patients. The electrode array was inserted into the lateral recess of the fourth ventricle and correct electrode positioning was monitored with the aid of electrically evoked auditory brainstem responses and neural response telemetry. Correct implantation was achieved in all patients. No complications were observed due to implantation surgery or related to ABI activation and stimulation of the cochlear nuclei. At activation, an average of 9.8 electrodes (range 5–13) were switched on without side effects. One to 6 electrodes were activated in the following sessions after time periods ranging from 2 to 16 months. All patients achieved auditory-alone-mode closed-set word recognition scores ranging from 40 to 100%; 3 had auditory-alone-mode open-set sentence recognition scores of 60–100%; 2 of these even had speech-tracking performance scores of 38 and 43 words, respectively, showing an ability to engage in normal conversation and converse over the phone. The present study demonstrates that the ABI is a useful rehabilitation instrument in subjects with damaged cochleas and/or CN avulsion following head injury who are unamenable or poorly responsive to auditory rehabilitation using cochlear implants.

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