Current steering with partial tripolar stimulation mode in cochlear implants


The large spread of excitation is a major cause of poor spectral resolution for cochlear implant (CI) users. Partial tripolar (pTP) mode has been proposed to reduce current spread by returning an equally distributed fraction (0.5 × σ) of current to two flanking electrodes and the rest to an extra-cochlear ground. This study tested the efficacy of incorporating current steering into pTP mode to add spectral channels. Different proportions of current [α × σ and (1 - α) × σ] were returned to the basal and apical flanking electrodes respectively to shape the electric field. Loudness and pitch perception with α from 0 to 1 in steps of 0.1 was simulated with a computational model of CI stimulation and tested on the apical, middle, and basal electrodes of six CI subjects. The highest σ allowing for full loudness growth within the implant compliance limit was chosen for each main electrode. Pitch ranking was measured between pairs of loudness-balanced steered pTP stimuli with an α interval of 0.1 at the most comfortable level. Results demonstrated that steered pTP stimuli with α around 0.5 required more current to achieve equal loudness than those with α around 0 or 1, maybe due to more focused excitation patterns. Subjects usually perceived decreasing pitches as α increased from 0 to 1, somewhat consistent with the apical shift of the center of gravity of excitation pattern in the model. Pitch discrimination was not better with α around 0.5 than with α around 0 or 1, except for some subjects and electrodes. For three subjects with better pitch discrimination, about half of the pitch ranges of two adjacent main electrodes overlapped with each other in steered pTP mode. These results suggest that current steering with focused pTP mode may improve spectral resolution and pitch perception with CIs.

Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, 14(2), 213-231