Changes in Tinnitus by Cochlear Implantation: A Parametric Study of the Effect of Single-Electrode Stimulation

Francka J J Kloostra*, Emile de Kleine, Rolien H Free, Rutger Hofman, Pim Van Dijk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Introduction: While cochlear implantation may have a positive effect on tinnitus, it is not effective in reducing tinnitus in all patients. This may be due to different patients requiring different strategies of electrical stimulation in order to obtain a positive effect on tinnitus. It is, therefore, important to identify the most effective stimulation strategies to reduce tinnitus. The simplest possible strategy is stimulation by only one electrode. In this study, we investigated tinnitus suppression by electrical stimulation via a single electrode of the cochlear implant. Methods: We performed a listening experiment in 19 adult participants, who had received a unilateral cochlear implant (CI) because of severe bilateral hearing loss. All of these patients had indicated that they suffered from tinnitus. During a 300-s interval, patients listened to blocks of single-electrode stimulation and rated the loudness of the stimulus and any effects on their tinnitus. The 300-s interval included a block of single-electrode stimulation (duration 120 s). In consecutive intervals, the stimulus differed in its cochlear location (basal or apical), its pulse rate (720 or 725 Hz, 1,200 Hz, and 2,400 or 2,320 Hz), and amplitude (just above threshold or equivalent to moderate loudness). Thus, 2 × 3 × 2 = 12 stimulus conditions were tested in each participant, and each condition was presented only once. During the experiment, the participants promptly rated the loudness of the stimuli and the loudness of their tinnitus on a Visual Analogue Scale (10-point VAS). Results: Significantly more tinnitus reduction was observed with stimuli at a moderate intensity level (30%) compared to stimuli at near-threshold level (18%) ([1, N = 222] = 14.115, p < 0.01). No significant differences in tinnitus levels resulted from the different pulse rates and stimulation sites. Eight participants reported an increase of tinnitus loudness under at least one stimulus condition. Changes in tinnitus loudness were generally minor, and never exceeded 3 points on the VAS. The overall effect of cochlear implantation on tinnitus, that is, the effect with full-array stimulation, was not correlated with the effectiveness of the single-electrode stimulation on tinnitus. Conclusion: In conclusion, the effect of single-electrode stimulation on tinnitus is relatively insignificant in comparison to the effect of full-array stimulation. However, in some individual cases, sustained single-electrode stimulation may be beneficial for tinnitus management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-148
Number of pages9
JournalAudiology and Neuro-Otology
Issue number3
Early online date7-Sept-2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2021


  • Tinnitus
  • Cochlear implantation
  • Electrical stimulation

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