Currently, bilateral cochlear implants (CIs) are independently programmed in clinics using frequency allocations based on the relative location of a given electrode from the end of each electrode array. By pairing electrodes based on this method, bilateral CI recipients may have decreased sensitivity to interaural time differences (ITD) and/or interaural level differences (ILD), two cues critical for binaural tasks. There are multiple different binaural measures that can potentially be used to determine the optimal way to pair electrodes across the ears. Previous studies suggest that the optimal electrode pairing between the left and right ears may vary depending on the binaural task used. These studies, however, have only used one reference location or a single bilateral CI user. In both instances, it is difficult to determine if the results that were obtained reflect a measurement error or a systematic difference across binaural tasks. It is also difficult to determine from these studies if the differences between the three cues vary across electrode regions, which could result from differences in the availability of binaural cues across frequency regions. The purpose of this study was to determine if, after experience-dependent adaptation, there are systematic differences in the optimal pairing of electrodes at different points along the array for the optimal perception of ITD, ILD, and pitch.
Data from seven bilateral Nucleus users was collected and analyzed. Participants were tested with ITD, ILD, and pitch-matching tasks using five different reference electrodes in one ear, spaced across the array. Comparisons were conducted to determine if the optimal bilateral electrode pairs systematically differed in different regions depending on whether they were measured based on ITD sensitivity, ILD sensitivity, or pitch matching, and how those pairs differed from the pairing in the participants’ clinical programs.
Results indicate that there was a significant difference in the optimal pairing depending on the cue measured, but only at the basal end of the array.
The results suggest that optimal electrode pairings differ depending on the cue measured to determine optimal pairing, at least for the basal end of the array. This also suggests that the improvements seen when using optimally paired electrodes may be tied to the particular percept being measured both to determine electrode pairing and to assess performance, at least for the basal end of the array.