Bilateral cochlear implantation in the ferret: a novel animal model for behavioral studies.
Hartley DE., Vongpaisal T., Xu J., Shepherd RK., King AJ., Isaiah A.
Bilateral cochlear implantation has recently been introduced with the aim of improving both speech perception in background noise and sound localization. Although evidence suggests that binaural perception is possible with two cochlear implants, results in humans are variable. To explore potential contributing factors to these variable outcomes, we have developed a behavioral animal model of bilateral cochlear implantation in a novel species, the ferret. Although ferrets are ideally suited to psychophysical and physiological assessments of binaural hearing, cochlear implantation has not been previously described in this species. This paper describes the techniques of deafening with aminoglycoside administration, surgical implantation of an intracochlear array and chronic intracochlear electrical stimulation with monitoring for electrode integrity and efficacy of stimulation. Experiments have been presented elsewhere to show that the model can be used to study behavioral and electrophysiological measures of binaural hearing in chronically implanted animals. This paper demonstrates that cochlear implantation and chronic intracochlear electrical stimulation are both safe and effective in ferrets, opening up the possibility of using this model to study potential protective effects of bilateral cochlear implantation on the developing central auditory pathway. Since ferrets can be used to assess psychophysical and physiological aspects of hearing along with the structure of the auditory pathway in the same animals, we anticipate that this model will help develop novel neuroprosthetic therapies for use in humans.