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The University of Southampton

Why is cochlear implant performance so variable and what does this tell us? Seminar

12:00 - 13:00
19 February 2020

For more information regarding this seminar, please telephone Vanui Mardanyan on 44 (0)23 8059 2277 or email .

Event details

ISVR Hearing and Balance Centre Research Seminar

Cochlear implantation is a hugely successful technology that provides access to the world of sound for those with severe to profound deafness. However, performance outcomes are still variable, and it is not always clear why some cochlear implant users obtain better functional hearing than others. Known predictive factors such as duration deafness can only account for a relatively small amount of performance variability.  I will present some new data suggesting that a relatively simple measure of auditory performance (random gap detection thresholds) can account for a high degree of performance variation, and consider reasons why this might be the case. I will also consider what is currently known about key biological factors at the device/cochlear interface that might aid our understanding of individual variation. Finally, I will consider how the traditional distinction between “peripheral” (inner ear/device interface) and “central” (brain responses to sound) sources of variation may be misleading because of the extent and way in which different regions of the auditory system are interconnected.

Hearing loss is a widespread problem. The most common form of hearing problem is age-related hearing loss, which affects more than 1 in 3 people over 65. The most disabling form of hearing loss is profound hearing loss, which affects a much smaller proportion of people but has even more devastating consequences.

There is increasing interest in ensuring that, for individuals with profound hearing loss who have some residual hearing, such hearing can be preserved after cochlear implant surgery. Carl’s research aims to optimise outcomes for both groups of people and to find new ways to preserve hearing in both cases. He is particularly interested in the role inflammation plays in driving hearing loss, and how its management can be used to reduce or slow down the development of hearing loss. His research work also focuses on the use of other physiological measures to predict and optimise user hearing performance. Consequently, his research covers:

  • How chronic inflammation contributes to age-related hearing loss, both at a population level and in terms of basic biological mechanisms, and how this knowledge can be used to slow the acceleration of age-related hearing loss.
  • How inflammation contributes to loss of residual hearing for profoundly deaf people undergoing cochlear implant surgery (in cases where performance will be compromised if the natural “acoustic hearing” of these implant recipients is lost during the surgical process).
  • How the setting of cochlear implants and other hearing devices can be optimised by using individualised measures of biological function and hearing performance, including use of imaging and measures of specific hearing abilities.
  • Which acoustic speech cues should be optimised for cochlear implant recipients, both via their own residual acoustic hearing (for those that retain some) and through the cochlear implant itself.

Speaker information

Prof Carl Verschuur, Professorial Fellow (Enterprise), Director of University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service (USAIS), an enterprise unit within Engineering and Physical Sciences.

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