Asymmetric hearing with severe to profound hearing loss (SPHL) in one ear and better hearing in the other requires increased listening effort and is detrimental for understanding speech in noise and sound localization. Although a cochlear implant (CI) is the only treatment that can restore hearing to an ear with SPHL, current candidacy criteria often disallows this option for patients with asymmetric hearing. The present study aimed to evaluate longitudinal performance outcomes in a relatively large group of adults with asymmetric hearing who received a CI in the poor ear.
Forty-seven adults with postlingual hearing loss participated. Test materials included objective and subjective measures meant to elucidate communication challenges encountered by those with asymmetric hearing. Test intervals included preimplant and 6 and 12 months postimplant. Preimplant testing was completed in participants’ everyday listening condition: bilateral hearing aids (HAs) n = 9, better ear HA n = 29, and no HA n = 9; postimplant, each ear was tested separately and in the bimodal condition.
Group mean longitudinal results in the bimodal condition postimplant compared with the preimplant everyday listening condition indicated significantly improved sentence scores at soft levels and in noise, improved localization, and higher ratings of communication function by 6 months postimplant. Group mean, 6-month postimplant results were significantly better in the bimodal condition compared with either ear alone. Audibility and speech recognition for the poor ear alone improved significantly with a CI compared with preimplant. Most participants had clinically meaningful benefit on most measures. Contributory factors reported for traditional CI candidates also impacted results for this population. In general, older participants had poorer bimodal speech recognition in noise and localization abilities than younger participants. Participants with early SPHL onset had better bimodal localization than those with later SPHL onset, and participants with longer SPHL duration had poorer CI alone speech understanding in noise but not in quiet. Better ear pure-tone average (PTA) correlated with all speech recognition measures in the bimodal condition. To understand the impact of better ear hearing on bimodal performance, participants were grouped by better ear PTA: group 1 PTA ≤40 dB HL (n = 19), group 2 PTA = 41 to 55 dB HL (n = 14), and group 3 PTA = 56 to 70 dB HL (n = 14). All groups showed bimodal benefit on speech recognition measures in quiet and in noise; however, only group 3 obtained benefit when noise was toward the CI ear. All groups showed improved localization and ratings of perceived communication.
Receiving a CI for the poor ear was an effective treatment for this population. Improved audibility and speech recognition were evident by 6 months postimplant. Improvements in sound localization and self-reports of communication benefit were significant and not related to better ear hearing. Participants with more hearing in the better ear (group 1) showed less bimodal benefit but greater bimodal performance for speech recognition than groups 2 and 3. Test batteries for this population should include quality of life measures, sound localization, and adaptive speech recognition measures with spatially separated noise to capture the hearing loss deficits and treatment benefits reported by this patient population.
1Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
2Asymmetric Hearing Study Team Collaborators are listed in the Acknowledgments section.
Received May 16, 2017; accepted November 26, 2017.
This work was supported by R01DC009010 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health.
J.B.F. serves on the audiology advisory boards for Advanced Bionics and Cochlear Americas, and L.K.H. serves on the audiology advisory board for Advanced Bionics.
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
Address for correspondence: Jill B. Firszt, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue, Campus Box 8115, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA. E-mail: email@example.com