Excitation patterns of standard and steered partial tripolar stimuli in cochlear implants


Current steering in partial tripolar (pTP) mode has been shown to improve pitch perception and spectral resolution with cochlear implants (CIs). In this mode, a fraction (σ) of the main electrode current is returned within the cochlea and steered between the basal and apical flanking electrodes (with a proportion of α and 1 - α, respectively). Pitch generally decreases when α increases from 0 to 1, although the salience of pitch change varies across CI users. This study aimed to identify the mechanism of pitch changes with pTP-mode current steering and the factors contributing to the intersubject variability in pitch-ranking sensitivity. The electrical fields were measured for steered pTP stimuli on the same main electrode with α = 0, 0.5, and 1 in five implanted ears using electrical field imaging (EFI). The related excitation patterns were also measured physiologically using evoked compound action potential (ECAP) and psychophysically using psychophysical forward masking (PFM). Consistent with the pitch-ranking results in this study, the EFI, ECAP, and PFM centroids shifted apically with increasing α. An apical shift was also observed for the PFM peak but not for the EFI or ECAP peak. The pattern width was similar with different α values within a given measure (e.g., EFI, ECAP, or PFM), but the ECAP patterns were broader than the EFI and PFM patterns, possibly because ECAP was measured with smaller σ values than EFI and PFM. The amount of pattern shift with α depended on σ (i.e., the total amount of current used for steering) but was not correlated with the pitch-ranking sensitivity across subjects. The results revealed that the pitch changes elicited by pTP-mode current steering were not only driven by the shifts of excitation centroid.

Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, 17(2), 145-158