Benefits of bilateral cochlear implantation

To experience everyday sounds in stereo, we need to be able to hear with both ears. For cochlear implant candidates and recipients, bilateral implantation (cochlear implants in both ears) is the ideal solution to provide complete hearing experience.

Read about Geoff Read's experience with bilateral cochlear implants here.

The bilateral difference

When only one ear is functioning correctly, hearing the sounds around you can be challenging. This is because your head acts as a barrier to sound coming from different directions. Bilateral cochlear implants help to provide hearing in 360 degrees – the way nature intended.

Demonstration of unilateral cochlear implantation Demonstration of bilateral cochlear implantation

Unilateral hearing

When sound is heard by only one ear, the brain finds it hard to process the distance and direction of the sound. This makes it difficult to locate the source of many sounds, or focus on a single voice in a crowd.

Bilateral hearing

The ability to hear sound with both ears gives the effect of hearing instereo. It enables you to pick out soft or distant speech, separate a single voice from background noise and determine which direction sound is coming from.

Early implantation and future technology

Stimulation of the second ear helps to build the critical neural pathways in the brain that are required for hearing. If the ear is not stimulated by either a hearing aid or cochlear implant, these critical pathways can’t develop and this may impact on a recipient’s ability to access future technology.

The application of future hearing technology is unknown and the expected timing is uncertain. In the meantime, implant design and surgical techniques are intended to leave hair cells intact so recipients can access future technology if it becomes available.

Benefits of bilateral implantation

  • More connected

Hearing with both ears can improve speech understanding in noisy settings, such as at work, in the classroom or in a busy restaurant. Bilateral recipients also comment that volume and tone sounds better with two implants compared with one.

  • More confident

The ability to hear with both ears allows us to more accurately perceive where sounds are coming from. This makes us feel more confident and safer in everyday situations like crossing the street.

  • More balanced and relaxed

Bilateral implants can bring a more balanced perception of sound making it easier to hear everyday sounds, including music, without the constant strain associated with a hearing loss.

  • Peace of mind

Knowing that your child can hear clearly at school, provides you with greater peace of mind. Studies show that children who only hear with one ear are ten times more likely to fail a grade than their bilaterally hearing peers. They’re also twice as likely to develop behavioural issues in the classroom.1

  • Cochlear - designs with bilateral hearing in mind

Because Cochlear designs all Nucleus® implant systems with bilateral hearing in mind, there are many benefits to choosing Cochlear for your or your child’s second ear.


Please seek advice from your health professional about treatments for hearing loss. Outcomes may vary, and your health professional will advise you about the factors which could affect your outcome. Always read the instructions for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information.


  1. B.R.Peters, M.D. Rationale for Bilateral Cochlear Implantation in Children and Adults. Cochlear White Paper Oct 07.