Tissue formation around the electrode array of a cochlear implant has been suggested to influence preservation of residual hearing as well as electrical hearing performance of implanted subjects. Further, inhomogeneity in the electrical properties of the scala tympani shape the electrical field and affect current spread. Intracochlear trauma due to electrode insertion and the insertion site itself are commonly seen as triggers for the tissue formation. The present study investigates whether the insertion site, round window membrane (RWM) vs. cochleostomy (CS), or the sealing material, no seal vs. muscle graft vs. carboxylate cement, have an influence on the amount of fibrous tissue and/or new bone formation after CI implantation in the guinea pig. Hearing thresholds were determined by auditory brainstem response (ABR) measurements prior to implantation and after 28 days. The amount of tissue formation was quantified by evaluation of microscopic images obtained by a grinding/polishing procedure to keep the CI in place during histological processing.
An insertion via the round window membrane resulted after 28 days in less tissue formation in the no seal and muscle seal condition compared to the cochleostomy approach. Between these two sealing techniques there was no difference. Sealing the cochlea with carboxylate cement resulted always in a strong new bone formation and almost total loss of residual hearing. The amount of tissue formation and the hearing loss correlated at 1–8 kHz. Consequently, the use of carboxylate cement as a sealing material in cochlear implantation should be avoided even in animal studies, whereas sealing the insertion site with a muscle graft did not induce an additional tissue growth compared to omitting a seal. For hearing preservation the round window approach should be used.