Is Early Cochlear Implant Device Activation Safe for All on-the-Ear and off-the-Ear Sound Processors?
Background: Cochlear implantation (CI) is an effective treatment option for patients with severe-to-profound hearing loss. When CI first started, it was recommended to wait until at least 4 weeks after the CI surgery for the initial activation because of possible complications. Advances in the surgical techniques and experiences in fitting have made initial activation possible within 24 h. Objectives: To compare the complaints and complications after early activation between behind-the-ear (BTE) and off-the-ear (OTE) sound processors and to show the impact of early activation on the electrode impedance values. Method: CI surgeries performed between March 2013 and July 2018 were retrospectively analyzed from the database. In total, 294 CI users were included in the present study. The impedance measurements were analyzed postoperatively at the initial activation prior to the stimulation, and 4 weeks after the initial activation in the first-month follow-up visit. A customized questionnaire was administered in the first-month follow-up fitting session to caregivers and/or patients who were using CI at least for 6 months. Medical records were also reviewed to identify any postoperative complications. Results: In the early activation group, impedance values were significantly lower than in the control group (p < 0.05) at first fitting. At the first-month follow-up, no significant difference was found between the groups (p > 0.05). The most common side effects were reported to be edema (6.1%) and pain (5.7%) in the early activation group. In patients with OTE sound processors, the rate of side effects such as skin infection, wound swelling, skin hyperemia, and pain was higher than in patients with BTE sound processors; however, a statistical significance was only observed in wound swelling (p = 0.005). Selecting the appropriate magnet was defined as a problem for the OTE sound processors during the initial activation. Conclusion: This study revealed that early activation of CI was clinically safe and feasible in patients with BTE sound processors. When using OTE sound processors, the audiologists should be careful during the activation period and inform patients of possible side effects. The first fitting should be delayed for 4 weeks after CI for OTE sound processors. This current study is the first to report this finding with 5 years of experience in a large cohort.