Sept 2020 AIP Publishing - Scitation

We have characterised complex impedance spectra of human cadaveric cochleas using a cochlear implant and found an equivalent circuit model for the measured impedances. The circuit model indicated two separate parts of impedances of which one is spread-induced and the other is spread-independent. The circuit model could be used for modeling electrical stimulus spread signals, which were verified with stimulations and recordings from a cochlear implant. Therefore, with the cochlear impedance spectroscopy measurements and the equivalent circuit, one could design new cochlear implant stimuli and predict the voltage response and spread distribution. Based on this, stimuli can be customized for different cochlear implant users, and more types of stimuli can be tested before applying to them in vivo. As shown in this study, using an ultra-short phase duration of 0.5 µs can significantly suppress the stimulus spread, which provides an example for cochlear implant clinics to reduce spectral blurring and improve cochlear implant performance. In addition, the spread-independent component could be clinically useful to diagnose problems with the ground electrodes. Moreover, this method is also applicable to other medical implants using electrical stimuli.

When coupled to the existing electrical characterization tools integrated with cochlear implants, this technology could reveal more information about cochleas for cochlear implant users, with potential for cochlear implant troubleshooting, such as distinguishing problems with intracochlear electrodes or extracochlear ground electrode and identifying the conditions (such as fibrosis or soft tissue ingrowth) surrounding the electrodes. For future work, we will test the universality of this method and model for cochlear implants with different designs from different manufacturers, and further explore the stimulus design to suppress electrical spread and enhance stimulation efficiency, and correlate the results with psychoacoustic measurements in patients with CIs.

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