Electric and acoustic stimulation (EAS) with preserved hearing in the implanted ear provides benefit for speech understanding, spatial hearing, and quality of life in adults. However, there is limited research on EAS outcomes in children. The aims of this study were to estimate the magnitude of EAS-related benefit on speech understanding in children with preserved acoustic hearing and to determine what role acoustic interaural time difference (ITD) sensitivity may have on said EAS benefit.
Six children with acoustic hearing preservation and 20 children with normal hearing (NH) were recruited to participate. Speech recognition was assessed via an eight-loudspeaker array with speech presented from one loudspeaker at 0 degree and restaurant noise from all other loudspeakers (45–315 degrees). ITD thresholds were measured for a 250-Hz signal presented acoustically via insert earphones.
Only one EAS listener demonstrated significant benefit from bilateral acoustic hearing as compared with acoustic hearing from a single ear. ITD thresholds were poor in the range of 302 to 1000+ ms and were considerably poorer than ITD thresholds for the NH group.
These data suggest that children with acoustic hearing preservation may not exhibit initial EAS benefit for speech recognition in semi-diffuse noise; however, because none exhibited a decrement in performance with bilateral acoustic stimulation, EAS fittings are recommended to provide binaural acoustic access allowing for EAS adaptation to binaural cues over time. Future research should address the emergence of EAS benefit, binaural cue sensitivity, and the role of EAS experience in children and adults.