Delayed changes in auditory status in cochlear implant users with preserved acoustic hearing

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Abstract

This retrospective review explores delayed-onset hearing loss in 85 individuals receiving cochlear implants designed to preserve acoustic hearing at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics between 2001 and 2015. Repeated measures of unaided behavioral audiometric thresholds, electrode impedance, and electrically evoked compound action potential (ECAP) amplitude growth functions were used to characterize longitudinal changes in auditory status. Participants were grouped into two primary categories according to changes in unaided behavioral thresholds: (1) stable hearing or symmetrical hearing loss and (2) delayed loss of hearing in the implanted ear. Thirty-eight percent of this sample presented with delayed-onset hearing loss of various degrees and rates of change. Neither array type nor insertion approach (round window or cochleostomy) had a significant effect on prevalence. Electrode impedance increased abruptly for many individuals exhibiting precipitous hearing loss; the increase was often transient. The impedance increases were significantly larger than the impedance changes observed for individuals with stable or symmetrical hearing loss. Moreover, the impedance changes were associated with changes in behavioral thresholds for individuals with a precipitous drop in behavioral thresholds. These findings suggest a change in the electrode environment coincident with the change in auditory status. Changes in ECAP thresholds, growth function slopes, and suprathreshold amplitudes were not correlated with changes in behavioral thresholds, suggesting that neural responsiveness in the region excited by the implant is relatively stable. Further exploration into etiology of delayed-onset hearing loss post implantation is needed, with particular interest in mechanisms associated with changes in the intracochlear environment.

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