A Site-Selection Strategy Based on Polarity Sensitivity for Cochlear Implants: Effects on Spectro-Temporal Resolution and Speech Perception.


Thresholds of asymmetric pulses presented to cochlear implant (CI) listeners depend on polarity in a way that differs across subjects and electrodes. It has been suggested that lower thresholds for cathodic-dominant compared to anodic-dominant pulses reflect good local neural health. We evaluated the hypothesis that this polarity effect (PE) can be used in a site-selection strategy to improve speech perception and spectro-temporal resolution. Detection thresholds were measured in eight users of Advanced Bionics CIs for 80-pps, triphasic, monopolar pulse trains where the central high-amplitude phase was either anodic or cathodic. Two experimental MAPs were then generated for each subject by deactivating the five electrodes with either the highest or the lowest PE magnitudes (cathodic minus anodic threshold). Performance with the two experimental MAPs was evaluated using two spectro-temporal tests (Spectro-Temporal Ripple for Investigating Processor EffectivenesS (STRIPES; Archer-Boyd et al. in J Acoust Soc Am 144:2983-2997, 2018) and Spectral-Temporally Modulated Ripple Test (SMRT; Aronoff and Landsberger in J Acoust Soc Am 134:EL217-EL222, 2013)) and with speech recognition in quiet and in noise. Performance was also measured with an experimental MAP that used all electrodes, similar to the subjects' clinical MAP. The PE varied strongly across subjects and electrodes, with substantial magnitudes relative to the electrical dynamic range. There were no significant differences in performance between the three MAPs at group level, but there were significant effects at subject level-not all of which were in the hypothesized direction-consistent with previous reports of a large variability in CI users' performance and in the potential benefit of site-selection strategies. The STRIPES but not the SMRT test successfully predicted which strategy produced the best speech-in-noise performance on a subject-by-subject basis. The average PE across electrodes correlated significantly with subject age, duration of deafness, and speech perception scores, consistent with a relationship between PE and neural health. These findings motivate further investigations into site-specific measures of neural health and their application to CI processing strategies.