Contralateral suppression of human hearing sensitivity in single-sided deaf cochlear implant users.


Medical University Hannover, Cluster of Excellence "Hearing4all", Hannover, Germany. Electronic address: [Email]


Cochlear implants (CIs) are being implanted in people with unilateral hearing loss because they can improve speech intelligibility and sound source localization. Though designed to restore the afferent auditory stimulation, the CI possibly restores some efferent effects. The present study aimed at investigating this possibility. Five single-sided deaf CI users with less than 30 dB hearing loss up to 4 kHz in their acoustic ear participated in the study. Absolute thresholds for their acoustic ears were measured for pure tones of 500 and 4000 Hz with durations of 10 and 200 ms in the presence and in the absence of contralateral broadband electrical stimulation (CBES) delivered with the CI. The electrical stimulus consisted of pulse trains (symmetric biphasic pulses with phase duration 36 μs) on all 16 electrodes sequentially stimulated at a rate of 843 Hz. Its intensity was set to sound as loud as broadband noise at 50 or 60 dB SPL in the acoustic ear. Thresholds were measured using a three-interval, three-alternative, forced-choice procedure with a two-down, one-up adaptive rule to estimate the level for 71% correct in the psychometric function. Thresholds measured without the CBES were lower for the longer than for the shorter tones, and the difference was larger at 500 than at 4000 Hz. CBES equivalent to 50 or 60 dB SPL caused significant threshold elevation only for short (10 ms) and low frequency (500 Hz) acoustic tones of 1.2 and 2.2 dB. These increases appear smaller than previously reported for normal hearing listeners in related experiments. These results support the notion that for single-sided deaf CI users, the CI modulates hearing in the acoustic ear. The possible mechanisms that may be contributing this effect are discussed.


Cochlear implant,Contralateral masking,Medial olivocochlear reflex,Single sided deafness,