Should I go bilateral?

Why would you want to have two cochlear implant devices? Is two better than one?

Two cochlear implants help you:

  • To improve hearing in background noise
  • To listen to conversation in social, educational or work settings where more than one person is speaking
  • To know where sound is coming from
  • To be able to look quickly in the direction of a warning shout or car horn
  • To maintain some hearing if your first cochlear implant goes wrong or has a temporary fault
  • To ensure auditory capability in the second ear that might otherwise be lost in the absence of auditory stimulation
  • To preserve the cochlea and prevent bone ossification in people deafened through meningitis

Other benefits of binaural hearing – what the research tells us

  • Externalisation – perceiving sound as coming from its source not feeling like it is coming from inside the listener’s head
  • 3D sound perception – perceiving sounds within the relative location or distance that they occur, resulting in a more natural sounding environment
  • Balanced sound – perceiving sound that is equal across two ears
  • Clarity – sound appears sharper
  • Fullness – sound is richer and more complete
  • Ease of listening – less effort is required to listen

Source: 2 ears to hear

Going bilateral

In the UK, this is tricky as much depends on availability of funding from your local Primary Care Trust, adherence to NICE guidelines, and support from your medical team.

There are a number of factors to carefully consider;

  • Research your NHS PCT’s criteria
  • Consider your PCT’s funding capacity
  • Examine the NICE guidelines TA166 – remember these are only guidelines and your PCT can exercise discretion in how closely they follow these guidelines (or not)
  • Present a list of valid reasons for two cochlear implants over any other option such as a cochlear implant / hearing combination. Useful information, explaining the benefits of being bilateral, can be found at 2ears2hear and Rationale for Bilateral Cochlear Implantation in Children and Adults
  • Present a cost / benefit analysis to your PCT
  • Take a copy of the following research studies demonstrating successful bilateral outcomes to your review meeting
  1. Spatial listening tests
  2. Spatial listening tests: results
  3. Pediatric bilateral multi-centre study
  4. Cochlear Implantation in Adults
  • Get your surgeon and cochlear implant team on your side
  • Consider your own personal medical and hearing history

User experiences

  • Tina: From one cochlear implant to two
  • Sam: ABSO(bleeping)LUTELY awesome!
  • Arlene: Bilateral Cochlear Implants – On Beyond the Testing Booth
– Tina Lannin