Prior to cochlear implant (CI) surgery in children, the integrity of the auditory pathway is sometimes assessed by electrical ear canal stimulation (ECS). However, the evaluation of reactions as auditory is subjective. To test the prognostic value of ECS, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was performed during ECS vicariously in 18 adult CI candidates. Activation of the primary auditory cortex was detected in 9 of 16 cases when auditory sensations during ECS occurred, and tended to be more bilaterally distributed in CI candidates than in normal-hearing controls. ECS sensations only tended to correlate with fMRI activations. However, solely frequency discrimination during electrical stimulation predicted CI outcome, but neither other auditory sensations nor fMRI activations did so satisfactorily, which limits the diagnostic value of these measures. Instead, preoperative residual hearing (nonamplified and amplified) was a robust predictor for CI benefit.
Copyright 2008 S. Karger AG, Basel.