Objectives: The aim of the study was to compare auditory and speech outcomes and electrical parameters on average 8 years after cochlear implantation between children with isolated auditory neuropathy (AN) and children with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).
Design: The study was conducted at a tertiary, university-affiliated pediatric medical center. The cohort included 16 patients with isolated AN with current age of 5 to 12.2 years who had been using a cochlear implant for at least 3.4 years and 16 control patients with SNHL matched for duration of deafness, age at implantation, type of implant, and unilateral/bilateral implant placement. All participants had had extensive auditory rehabilitation before and after implantation, including the use of conventional hearing aids. Most patients received Cochlear Nucleus devices, and the remainder either Med-El or Advanced Bionics devices. Unaided pure-tone audiograms were evaluated before and after implantation. Implantation outcomes were assessed by auditory and speech recognition tests in quiet and in noise. Data were also collected on the educational setting at 1 year after implantation and at school age. The electrical stimulation measures were evaluated only in the Cochlear Nucleus implant recipients in the two groups. Similar mapping and electrical measurement techniques were used in the two groups. Electrical thresholds, comfortable level, dynamic range, and objective neural response telemetry threshold were measured across the 22-electrode array in each patient. Main outcome measures were between-group differences in the following parameters: (1) Auditory and speech tests. (2) Residual hearing. (3) Electrical stimulation parameters. (4) Correlations of residual hearing at low frequencies with electrical thresholds at the basal, middle, and apical electrodes.
Results: The children with isolated AN performed equally well to the children with SNHL on auditory and speech recognition tests in both quiet and noise. More children in the AN group than the SNHL group were attending mainstream educational settings at school age, but the difference was not statistically significant. Significant between-group differences were noted in electrical measurements: the AN group was characterized by a lower current charge to reach subjective electrical thresholds, lower comfortable level and dynamic range, and lower telemetric neural response threshold. Based on pure-tone audiograms, the children with AN also had more residual hearing before and after implantation. Highly positive coefficients were found on correlation analysis between T levels across the basal and midcochlear electrodes and low-frequency acoustic thresholds.
Conclusions: Prelingual children with isolated AN who fail to show expected oral and auditory progress after extensive rehabilitation with conventional hearing aids should be considered for cochlear implantation. Children with isolated AN had similar pattern as children with SNHL on auditory performance tests after cochlear implantation. The lower current charge required to evoke subjective and objective electrical thresholds in children with AN compared with children with SNHL may be attributed to the contribution to electrophonic hearing from the remaining neurons and hair cells. In addition, it is also possible that mechanical stimulation of the basilar membrane, as in acoustic stimulation, is added to the electrical stimulation of the cochlear implant.
1Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel; 2Institute of Audiology and Clinical Neurophysiology, Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, Petach Tikva, Israel; 3Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, Petach Tikva, Israel; and 4Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Received June 6, 2016; accepted August 29, 2016.
Address for correspondence Joseph Attias, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org