Cochlear implants are highly successful neural prostheses that enhance or restore hearing to the severely hearing impaired. However, performance varies considerably among cochlear implant listeners, particularly in noisy environments and for spectrally complex stimuli like music. We have developed fast and reliable tools to assess patterns of perceptual responses that are fairly predictive of variability in performance outcomes. These new procedures, established in adults, will allow for the first systematic investigation of single-channel performance measures and their relation to listening performance in children with cochlear implants. The results will guide the refinement of listener-tailored programming methods, leading to improvements in listening abilities.
Three aims are proposed: 1) to develop and assess listener-tailored cochlear implant programming, based on the focusing or deactivation of select channels, that will improve performance on complex listening tasks; 2) to assess the degree to which chronic listening experience enhances performance with listener-tailored strategies; and 3) to establish our first understanding of basic psychophysical measures in prelingually deaf and early implanted children to define the best route towards pediatric, listener-tailored programming approaches. The results of these studies are expected to advance our understanding of how cochlear implants should be programmed to best deliver spectrally challenging stimuli. Ultimately, the findings may lead to improved functional outcomes for both pediatric and adult cochlear implant listeners and provide insight into how the auditory system develops with altered input through a cochlear implant.

Public Health Relevance

For people with severe hearing loss a cochlear implant is surgically placed in the inner ear and converts environmental sounds into electrical pulses that stimulate the auditory nerve to produce the sensation of hearing. Although generally successful, there remains substantial variability in the overall outcomes for both children and adult with cochlear implants. The main goals of this project are i) to use the tools we have developed to test cochlear implant function within adult listeners and use them for the first time in children, and ii) to apply the knowledge about implant functioning to test and develop new methods for programming cochlear implants.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Auditory System Study Section (AUD)
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Miller, Roger
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Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
United States
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DiNino, Mishaela; Arenberg, Julie G (2018) Age-Related Performance on Vowel Identification and the Spectral-temporally Modulated Ripple Test in Children With Normal Hearing and With Cochlear Implants. Trends Hear 22:2331216518770959
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Bierer, Julie A; Litvak, Leonid (2016) Reducing Channel Interaction Through Cochlear Implant Programming May Improve Speech Perception: Current Focusing and Channel Deactivation. Trends Hear 20:
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