Optical cochlear implant: evaluation of insertion forces of optical fibres in a cochlear model and of traumata in human temporal bones
Optical stimulation for hearing restoration is developing as an alternative therapy to electrical stimulation. For a more frequency-specific activation of the auditory system, light-guiding fibres need to be inserted into the coiled cochlea. To enable insertion with minimal trauma, glass fibres embedded in silicone were used as models. Thus, glass fibres of varying core/cladding diameter with and without silicon coating (single as well as in bundles) were inserted into a human scala tympani
... model. Insertion cochlear model force measurements were performed, and the thinner glass fibres that showed low insertion forces in the model were inserted into cadaveric human temporal bones. Silicone-coated glass fibres with different core/cladding diameters and bundle sizes could be inserted up to a maximum depth of 20 mm. Fibres with a core/cladding diameter of 50/55 μ m break during insertion deeper than 7 -15 mm into the ST model, whereas thinner fibres (20/25 μ m) could be inserted in the model without breakage and in human temporal bones without causing trauma to the inner ear structures. The insertion forces of silicone-coated glass fibres are comparable to those measured with conventional cochlear implant (CI) electrodes. As demonstrated in human temporal bones, a minimal traumatic implantation of an optical CI may be considered feasible.