Insertion trauma and recovery of function after cochlear implantation: Evidence from objective functional measures

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Partial loss and subsequent recovery of cochlear implant function in the first few weeks following cochlear implant surgery has been observed in previous studies using psychophysical detection thresholds. In the current study, we explored this putative manifestation of insertion trauma using objective functional measures: electrically-evoked compound action potential (ECAP) amplitude-growth functions (ECAP amplitude as a function of stimulus level). In guinea pigs implanted in a hearing ear with good post-implant hearing and good spiral ganglion neuron (SGN) survival, consistent patterns of ECAP functions were observed. The slopes of ECAP growth functions were moderately steep on the day of implant insertion, decreased to low levels over the first few days after implantation and then increased slowly over several weeks to reach a relatively stable level. In parallel, ECAP thresholds increased over time after implantation and then recovered, although more quickly, to a relatively stable low level as did thresholds for eliciting a facial twitch. Similar results were obtained in animals deafened but treated with an adenovirus with a neurotrophin gene insert that resulted in good SGN preservation. In contrast, in animals implanted in deaf ears that had relatively poor SGN survival, ECAP slopes reached low levels within a few days after implantation and remained low. These results are consistent with the idea that steep ECAP growth functions require a healthy population of auditory nerve fibers and that cochlear implant insertion trauma can temporarily impair the function of a healthy SGN population.

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