Variations in microanatomy of the human cochlea

Ersin Avci*, Tim Nauwelaers, Thomas Lenarz, Volkmar Hamacher, Andrej Kral

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

170 Citations (Scopus)


The human cochlea shows considerable interindividual variability in size and morphology. In order to develop atraumatic cochlear implant (CI) electrodes, high-precision details of the variability of human anatomy are required. Sixteen human temporal bones were cut around the cochlea in blocks of approximately 3.5 × 3.5 cm. The bones were scanned by using a Skyscan 1173 micro-computed tomography (μCT) device. Mimics software (Materialise, Leuven, Belgium) was used to segment out the scala tympani (ST) from the μCT images. A three-dimensional surface model of the segmented area was generated for each cochlea. Cross-sectional images were taken and analyzed by custom-designed software in MATLAB. Comparison of different STs showed large variability in cross-sectional diameter (CSD), vertical trajectory, and height of the ST. Relative standard deviations of the CSD were between 9 and 15%. Heights measured at the center of the ST exceeded those in the modiolar and lateral regions of the scala. At the lateral region, the height decreased significantly at the beginning of the second turn. In the vertical trajectory, critical anatomic features were observed, such as dips, vertical jumps, and peaks. Rosenthal's canal (RC) extended to between 560 and 650°. We found a correlation between the length of the RC and that of the ST. The ST was segmented and the internal dimensions measured by using μCT. We observed large dimensional variability between different STs. These differences could have considerable implications for approaches to the design of CI arrays, especially in terms of their ability to preserve residual hearing during insertion of the electrode array.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3245-3261
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cochlear implant
  • Hearing preservation
  • Individualized therapy
  • Scala tympani
  • μCT


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