Programming of multichannel cochlear implants (CIs) requires subjective responses to a series of sophisticated psychophysical percepts. It is often difficult for young prelinguistically deaf children to provide adequate responses for device fitting. This is especially true in setting levels of maximum comfortable loudness, whereby failure to indicate growth of loudness may result in elevation of stimulus levels to the threshold of pain. The acoustic or stapedial muscle reflex has been used previously to provide objective confirmation of acoustic stimulation, and there have been attempts to use the reflex in hearing aid fitting. It has also been suggested that electrically elicited middle ear muscle reflexes (eMEMR) may have applicability in confirming and quantifying electrical stimulation through a CI. To assess the relationship between eMEMR characteristics and levels of loudness perception with CIs, determine reliability of the response, and investigate potential use of eMEMR in CI programming, 25 postlinguistically deafened adult CI users were evaluated. Reflexes have also been attempted on 40 children, with responses present in 31 (71%). Comfort levels predicted by eMEMR were highly correlated with those obtained through subjective judgments in the adult subjects. The eMEMR provides an objective, accurate, and rapid method of estimating maximum comfortable loudness levels, which may be useful in the initial programming of young implant recipients.
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