The Summating Potential Is a Reliable Marker of Electrode Position in Electrocochleography: Cochlear Implant as a Theragnostic Probe

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Abstract

Objective:

For the increasing number of cochlear implantations in subjects with residual hearing, hearing preservation, and thus the prevention of implantation trauma, is crucial. A method for monitoring the intracochlear position of a cochlear implant (CI) and early indication of imminent cochlear trauma would help to assist the surgeon to achieve this goal. The aim of this study was to evaluate the reliability of the different electric components recorded by an intracochlear electrocochleography (ECochG) as markers for the cochleotopic position of a CI. The measurements were made directly from the CI, combining intrasurgical diagnostics with the therapeutical use of the CI, thus, turning the CI into a “theragnostic probe.”

Design:

Intracochlear ECochGs were measured in 10 Dunkin Hartley guinea pigs of either sex, with normal auditory brainstem response thresholds. All subjects were fully implanted (4 to 5 mm) with a custom six contact CI. The ECochG was recorded simultaneously from all six contacts with monopolar configuration (retroauricular reference electrode). The gross ECochG signal was filtered off-line to separate three of its main components: compound action potential, cochlear microphonic, and summating potential (SP). Additionally, five cochleae were harvested and histologically processed to access the spatial position of the CI contacts. Both ECochG data and histological reconstructions of the electrode position were fitted with the Greenwood function to verify the reliability of the deduced cochleotopic position of the CI.

Results:

SPs could be used as suitable markers for the frequency position of the recording electrode with an accuracy of ±1/4 octave in the functioning cochlea, verified by histology. Cochlear microphonics showed a dependency on electrode position but were less reliable as positional markers. Compound action potentials were not suitable for CI position information but were sensitive to “cochlear health” (e.g., insertion trauma).

Conclusions:

SPs directly recorded from the contacts of a CI during surgery can be used to access the intracochlear frequency position of the CI. Using SP monitoring, implantation may be stopped before penetrating functioning cochlear regions. If the technique was similarly effective in humans, it could prevent implantation trauma and increase hearing preservation during CI surgery. Diagnostic hardware and software for recording biological signals with a CI without filter limitations might be a valuable add-on to the portfolios of CI manufacturers.

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