This study aimed to investigate the associations between advanced age and the amount and the speed of neural adaptation of the electrically stimulated auditory nerve (AN) in postlingually deafened adult cochlear implant (CI) users.
Study participants included 26 postlingually deafened adult CI users, ranging in age between 28.7 and 84.0 years (mean: 63.8 years, SD: 14.4 years) at the time of testing. All study participants used a Cochlear Nucleus device with a full electrode array insertion in the test ear. The stimulus was a 100-ms pulse train with a pulse rate of 500, 900, 1800, or 2400 pulses per second (pps) per channel. The stimulus was presented at the maximum comfortable level measured at 2400 pps with a presentation rate of 2 Hz. Neural adaptation of the AN was evaluated using electrophysiological measures of the electrically evoked compound action potential (eCAP). The amount of neural adaptation was quantified by the adaptation index (AI) within three time windows: around 0 to 8 ms (window 1), 44 to 50 ms (window 2), and 94 to 100 ms (window 3). The speed of neural adaptation was quantified using a two-parameter power law estimation. In 23 participants, four electrodes across the electrode array were tested. In three participants, three electrodes were tested. Results measured at different electrode locations were averaged for each participant at each pulse rate to get an overall representation of neural adaptation properties of the AN across the cochlea. Linear-mixed models (LMMs) were used (1) to evaluate the effects of age at testing and pulse rate on the speed of neural adaptation and (2) to assess the effects of age at testing, pulse rate, and duration of stimulation (i.e., time window) on the amount of neural adaptation in these participants.
There was substantial variability in both the amount and the speed of neural adaptation of the AN among study participants. The amount and the speed of neural adaptation increased at higher pulse rates. In addition, larger amounts of adaptation were observed for longer durations of stimulation. There was no significant effect of age on the speed or the amount of neural adaptation.
The amount and the speed of neural adaptation of the AN are affected by both the pulse rate and the duration of stimulation, with higher pulse rates and longer durations of stimulation leading to faster and greater neural adaptation. Advanced age does not affect neural adaptation of the AN in postlingually deafened, middle-aged and elderly adult CI users.