Three challenges for future research on cochlear implants

Cochlear implants (CIs) often work very well for many children and adults with profound sensorineural (SNHL) hearing loss. Unfortunately, while many CI patients display substantial benefits in recognizing speech and understanding spoken language following cochlear implantation, a large number of patients achieve poor outcomes. Understanding and explaining the reasons for poor outcomes following implantation is a very challenging research problem that has received little attention despite the pressing clinical significance. In this paper, we discuss three challenges for future research on CIs. First, we consider the issue of individual differences and variability in outcomes following implantation. At the present time, we still do not have a complete and satisfactory account of the causal underlying factors that are responsible for the enormous individual differences and variability in outcomes. Second, we discuss issues related to the lack of preimplant predictors of outcomes. Very little prospective research has been carried out on the development of preimplant predictors that can be used to reliably identify CI candidates who may be at high risk for a poor outcome following implantation. Other than conventional demographics and hearing history, there are no prognostic tools available to predict speech recognition outcomes after implantation. Finally, we discuss the third challenge — what to do with a CI-user who has a poor outcome. We suggest that new research efforts need to be devoted to studying this neglected clinical population in greater depth to find out why they are doing poorly with their CI and what novel interventions and treatments can be developed to improve their speech recognition outcomes. Using these three challenges as objectives for future research on CIs, we suggest that the field needs to adopt a new narrative grounded in theory and methods from Cognitive Hearing Science and information processing theory. Without knowing which specific biological and neurocognitive factors are responsible for individual differences or understanding the underlying sensory and neurocognitive basis for variability in performance, it is impossible to select a specific approach to habilitation after a deaf adult or child receives a CI. Deaf adults and children who are performing poorly with their CIs are not a homogeneous group and may differ in many different ways from each other, reflecting the dysfunction of multiple brain systems associated with both congenital and acquired deafness. Hearing loss is not only an ear issue, it is also a brain issue too reflecting close links between perception and action and brain, body and world working together as a functionally integrated information processing system to support robust speech recognition and spoken language processing after implantation.

Publication Date:
Jan 03 2018
Date Submitted:
Jun 28 2019
World Journal of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
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 Record created 2019-06-28, last modified 2019-08-05

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