Suitability of the Binaural Interaction Component for Interaural Electrode Pairing of Bilateral Cochlear Implants

Hongmei Hu, Birger Kollmeier, Mathias Dietz

Although bilateral cochlear implants (BiCIs) have succeeded in improving the spatial hearing performance of bilateral CI users, the overall performance is still not comparable with normal hearing listeners. Limited success can be partially caused by an interaural mismatch of the place-of-stimulation in each cochlea. Pairing matched interaural CI electrodes and stimulating them with the same frequency band is expected to facilitate binaural functions such as binaural fusion, localization, or spatial release from masking. It has been shown in animal experiments that the magnitude of the binaural interaction component (BIC) derived from the wave-eV decreases for increasing interaural place of stimulation mismatch. This motivated the investigation of the suitability of an electroencephalography-based objective electrode-frequency fitting procedure based on the BIC for BiCI users. A 61 channel monaural and binaural electrically evoked auditory brainstem response (eABR) recording was performed in 7 MED-EL BiCI subjects so far. These BiCI subjects were directly stimulated at 60% dynamic range with 19.9 pulses per second via a research platform provided by the University of Innsbruck (RIB II). The BIC was derived for several interaural electrode pairs by subtracting the response from binaural stimulation from their summed monaural responses. The BIC based pairing results are compared with two psychoacoustic pairing methods: interaural pulse time difference sensitivity and interaural pitch matching. The results for all three methods analyzed as a function of probe electrode allow for determining a matched pair in more than half of the subjects, with a typical accuracy of ±1 electrode. This includes evidence for statistically significant tuning of the BIC as a function of probe electrode in human subjects. However, results across the three conditions were sometimes not consistent. These discrepancies will be discussed in the light of pitch plasticity versus less plastic brainstem processing.