Speech recognition with cochlear implants as a function of the number of channels: Effects of electrode placement.


This study investigated the effects of cochlear implant (CI) electrode array type and scalar location on the number of channels available to CI recipients for maximum speech understanding and sound quality. Eighteen post-lingually deafened adult CI recipients participated, including 11 recipients with straight electrode arrays entirely in scala tympani and 7 recipients with translocated precurved electrode arrays. Computerized tomography was used to determine electrode placement and scalar location. In each condition, the number of channels varied from 4 to 22 with equal spatial distribution across the array. Speech recognition (monosyllables, sentences in quiet and in noise), subjective speech sound quality, and closed-set auditory tasks (vowels, consonants, and spectral modulation detection) were measured acutely. Recipients with well-placed straight electrode arrays and translocated precurved electrode arrays performed similarly, demonstrating asymptotic speech recognition scores with 8-10 channels, consistent with the classic literature. This finding contrasts with recent work [Berg, Noble, Dawant, Dwyer, Labadie, and Gifford. (2019). J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 145, 1556-1564] that found precurved electrode arrays well-placed in scala tympani demonstrate continuous performance gains beyond 8-10 channels. Given these results, straight and translocated precurved electrode arrays are theorized to have less channel independence secondary to their placement farther away from neural targets.