Bilateral implants

19 10 2010


I’m enjoying being able to hear with my implant but as my hearing has improved, my perception of sound has shifted in my unimplanted ear. The hearing aid makes life sound truly awful now – if I can hear anything at all. The difference between my two ears is stark.

Last Thursday I wore my hearing aid all afternoon. [Do I get 5 stars?] The earmould burned my ear for 30 minutes but I kept it in. I wanted to explore the difference between the cochlear implant and hearing aid. Wearing them together in my silent office, nearby sounds suddenly seemed too loud, low and harsher. Putting my mug on my desk sounded like a crash. Ugh.

This is my first ‘hearing’ autumn, and it’s BEAUTIFUL! I took my dog to the park for a walk. With my implant, I was able to hear the autumn leaves crunch crisply and beautifully beneath my feet, the trees rustling in the wind, the traffic driving past the park, people talking and laughing as they walked past me, aeroplanes flying overhead, my footsteps on the path and other footsteps approaching and receding, my dog panting, the clicking of his nails, his ball *thunking* on the ground, the soft swish of grass under my feet, the birds sweetly tweeting.

I flipped the implant off and switched my hearing aid on.

Flashback to seven months ago.

All I could hear was the faint sound of my own footsteps. Around me was silence.

I felt so disconnected. So alone.

On the outside, looking in.

Just like I used to.

I put my implant back on and the rainbow came back. Some days I really do feel as if I have half a head of hearing. I feel as if I have an abyss on my right side. There’s nothing there to hear. Sometimes it feels as if I’m not really present. Disconnected. Unreal. So I’m thinking of getting a second implant. In the UK, this means paying for it myself, either here or abroad. Sooooo …. what’s it gonna be? An implant or a house deposit? An implant or a Porky? I’ve not yet met a bilateral user – I only know of two in the UK. Meeting a unilateral user was my tipping point a few months ago. I’m wondering what’s going to be my tipping point this time. Too much furniture? My crap driving?

The next NICE review will be in February 2011. I’m hoping they will approve bilateral cochlear implants for adults in the UK, but I’m not holding my breath. A second cochlear implant gives the user localisation of sounds, improved listening performance, and improved listening against background noise. Advanced Bionics are offering a webinar on bilateral cochlear implants tonight.


Advanced Bionics press release –

It’s no surprise that two ears hear better than one. Just as we are born to hear with two ears, using cochlear implants in both ears (bilateral cochlear implants) gives you or your child the best opportunity to hear more naturally. Whether you are considering implants for the first time or have used one implant for years, today’s cochlear implant candidates and recipients experience many benefits of hearing with two ears. Find out if you or your child may be a candidate for bilateral cochlear implants. Hear first hand accounts from those who know best, cochlear implant recipients and their families.


Online. Oct 19, 2010. 6pm Pacific/Los Angeles (9pm EST/New York, 2am GMT/London)


Captioning will be available.




12 responses

19 10 2010

I remember hearing alot of things with my hearing aids that I recognized with my CI. Since trying with my to hear with hearing aids in my unimplanted ear after I’ve been implanted, I am not sure why I am not hearing the things like I used to hear with my hearing aids anymore. It’s like it is gone, disappeared, vanished. I highly doubt I lost more of my hearing either because it’s pretty much been the same since I was in preschool.

19 10 2010
Catherine Mellor

I too feel the emptiness of the silent half. It is only partially filled with my HA. I wear it at a low setting to give just a bit of an ommph. When I try it by itself, it is just laughable. We are wearing a genuine medical-technical miracle. Everyday is better. What I love is the growing ease and consequent enjoyment of small talk! I just love being able to hear the little things people say. I find myself far more thrilled with that than I do listening to yet another car whuushing by on Turner Rd. I keep finding out just how much I really love talking to people. I just know that speech comprehension will come so much faster with two working ears. So, I too wonder just how much I can dig up for the second implant. I think I have more of an advantage in the US. It is just MediCal that says bilateral hearing is not a benefit. But Medicare will pay 80%. I just need to fork up the 20%. Hmmmmm.

19 10 2010

Tina, I can wholeheartedly, 100% support your wish for bilateral CI hearing. It is a night and day difference for me. Sound changes completely if I have both CIs on versus just one. Mappings are also a revelation…we’ll work on one side, and I’ll say, “Eh, I don’t know if I like how it sounds…” and then my audiologist will have me put the other CI on as well, and when I listen with both of them, everything sounds fantastic!

When I’m only wearing one CI, I have to lip read — I can’t understand speech anywhere near as well. With both, I can be across the house in one room and have a conversation with my husband or daughter when they are 2 rooms away! It’s amazing.

I always think of it like this…if we were blind and could regain our eyesight, would they say we could do just fine with vision in only one eye? So why do they think one ear is enough when you are deaf? There is a reason we have TWO ears, after all! I hope eventually everyone all across the world can be covered for bilateral CIs.


19 10 2010
Michael Janger

Very well written, Tina. When I got my CI five years ago, I went without my digital hearing aid in my other ear on my audiologist’s recommendation, so my brain would get used to the CI’s sounds. Once I put on my digital hearing aid after three months, my speech intelligibility and listening discrimination both dropped. After two months, I was really set on taking off the hearing aid so I could focus on my CI and work on improving my speaking and listening. But the audiologist said the problem was not the combination of hearing aid and CI. I just didn’t have the right digital hearing aid and the programming wasn’t correct. So she got me a different digital hearing aid, and put in the appropriate program. It worked out beautifully — I was able to listen to the melody of the music (that’s something that only hearing aids can do) and the clear rhythm and timbre through the CI. My speaking and listening improved dramatically. I’m still working out the hearing aid and maximizing it as much as possible before making a decision on whether to go ahead with a second CI. I want to be comfortable with trying out all avenues with my hearing aid before making the decision, because once I get a second CI I will no longer receive the natural sounds that a hearing aid provides. I know that a second CI has its wonderful benefits, but it’s an important decision that has to be thought through well.

If you haven’t, you might want to check with your audiologist and discuss whether it’s the hearing aid and whether you might need to reprogram it and/or get a different digital hearing aid. It’s worth exploring before you go ahead with a CI.

Good luck!
Michael Janger

20 10 2010

I’m being switched on tomorrow 21 Oct. I can’t wait! I have been all through all the CI blogs and I decided I want some of that too! I am having a Nucleus 5. But first! A long boring train ride!

hmmmm …. it really does make a difference when you have two hearing aids.

I was one of the first people to use a split cord and two earpieces with the old Medresco boxes and when the NHS went B/E I managed to persuade them to let me have two B/E aids even though it was not official policy at that time. I said to them “If I had bad eyesight would you give me a monocle?”. They gave me two aids. It does help a lot.

When I told the CI surgeons about that they fell about laughing but they agreed that it is logically true. You don’t see people going around with a monocle so why expect full hearing with only one ear? There are two for a reason.

The spending review doesn’t seem to be affecting the NHS this time round so maybe they will find the money. At the moment children get two and adults get one. Bilateral seems to be some kind of compromise in between.

20 10 2010

Good luck Andy!

That’s a good point about two hearing aids. I’m just thinking how much better it will be with two good cochlear implants. Wow.

20 10 2010

I think the word that applies is synergism. You get out more than the sum of the two inputs because you now get a sense of direction and depth of sound. We are going to have to learn all this in future.
Hearing people can tell exactly where something is, by sound alone. Blind people can play football so long as the ball and everyone else wears a little bell. They do sometimes kick each other but in general they can pinpoint the ball well enough to give it a hefty boot.

That’s the difference that two ears make. Two hearing aids are nothing like as accurate as that but do at least tell you right from left where sound is concerned.

I can only speculate on the effect of two CI’s but the surgeon did mention that they believe that children implanted with two can attain “near normal” hearing status. Which is weird really.
Especially when I can remember hearing aids that ran on valves!

20 10 2010

Some people prefer one to preserve their ear for future technology and the truth is, people do survive pretty good with one CI.

21 10 2010

@deafa It’s a gamble. I think It’s a waste of time if a person is now in their 30’s-40’s because the next thing most likely will be stem cells but these are still a good 10-20 years away depending on which researcher you ask. For those like me in that age group it’s absolutely pointless preserving an ear. In my case the surgeon wanted to implant my better ear and leave the ear I hear nothing with “as a spare” I told him to stop talking rubbish and get on with simultaneous bilateral implantation. I have maybe 25 years left in my career and I want to hear as best as possible NOW. No. Let me rephrase that. I don’t want to just “survive pretty good” I want to live it up to the max.

21 10 2010

@Sammarcko I am in agreement with you there. I have plenty of life left in me yet and I am not going to waste it waiting for stem cells. My surgeon said they are a lifetime away – and still very experimental. No thanks. I don’t want to wait 10 or 20-odd years waiting in quiet desperation for something to happen. I want to get on with my life and rev it up!

25 10 2010

Hi, Tina and ty for letting me in the FB group. I got a Ci in my right ear exactly 3 years ago and I’m very happy with it. Life has come back to me, not only sounds, and I can enjoy music (I missed it so much). Surgery was not too hard for me, and I am not scared about it. I Often wonder how could be with bilateral. Maybe one day…

26 10 2010
Hearing Aids Reviews

Great post!
Thank you for posting this.

Jack from Hearing Aid Reviews

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