Speech intelligibility and subjective benefit in single-sided deaf adults after cochlear implantation

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Treatment with cochlear implants (CIs) in single-sided deaf individuals started less than a decade ago. CIs can successfully reduce incapacitating tinnitus on the deaf ear and allow, so some extent, the restoration of binaural hearing. Until now, systematic evaluations of subjective CI benefit in post-lingually single-sided deaf individuals and analyses of speech intelligibility outcome for the CI in isolation have been lacking.

For the prospective part of this study, the Bern Benefit in Single-Sided Deafness Questionnaire (BBSS) was administered to 48 single-sided deaf CI users to evaluate the subjectively perceived CI benefit across different listening situations. In the retrospective part, speech intelligibility outcome with the CI up to 12 month post-activation was compared between 100 single-sided deaf CI users and 125 bilaterally implanted CI users (2nd implant).

The positive median ratings in the BBSS differed significantly from zero for all items suggesting that most individuals with single-sided deafness rate their CI as beneficial across listening situations. The speech perception scores in quiet and noise improved significantly over time in both groups of CI users. Speech intelligibility with the CI in isolation was significantly better in bilaterally implanted CI users (2nd implant) compared to the scores obtained from single-sided deaf CI users.

Our results indicate that CI users with single-sided deafness can reach open set speech understanding with their CI in isolation, encouraging the extension of the CI indication to individuals with normal hearing on the contralateral ear. Compared to the performance reached with bilateral CI users’ second implant, speech reception threshold are lower, indicating an aural preference and dominance of the normal hearing ear. The results from the BBSS propose good satisfaction with the CI across several listening situations.

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