Getting two cochlear implants
Answers to some common questions about bilateral cochlear implantation.
Some bilateral cochlear implant recipients have both devices implanted during the same surgery. Other bilateral recipients receive their second device later during different surgery. There are a variety of reasons that can influence a recipient's decision. You should discuss your options with your audiologist and cochlear implant surgeon to find out which approach is right for you.
A second cochlear implant may improve hearing in difficult listening situations including classrooms, meetings, restaurants and other active, noisy places. The benefits of bilateral cochlear implantation may include: improved localisation, always having one ear positioned near the sound source, better speech understanding in noisy environments, and subjective and qualitative benefits1-2. A second cochlear implant may improve your child's hearing in difficult listening situations. Several studies suggest that children with unilateral hearing loss may have difficulty listening and learning in classroom environments, and often benefit academically and socially from binaural hearing3-4.
The simple answer is: as soon as possible - two ears are better than one. If you become used to hearing with just one ear, it may take you longer to adjust once you decide to get a second implant. For children to develop listening and understanding using two ears, they need to be able to hear with two ears. The longer they rely on just one, the harder it can be to adapt to using two at a later stage. There is also a risk that they may miss out on learning opportunities in the meantime. Some people may be able to benefit from the combined hearing of two ears using a cochlear implant on one and a hearing aid on the other. However, with extended use of a cochlear implant, many people find that they no longer gain the benefits they once did from the hearing aid in their non-implanted ear. This is when a second cochlear implant should be considered, even though it might be several years after the first implant.
Some bilateral recipients find their hearing performance improves immediately following switch-on of the second cochlear implant. For others, improvement is more gradual. Your own experience is as unique as you, and may depend on factors such as the duration of your hearing loss and how much experience you have with your first cochlear implant or a hearing aid.
As with receiving one cochlear implant, the bilateral implant procedure carries very low risk. The new Nucleus® 6 cochlear implant featuring the Contour Advance™ Electrode offers maximum protection of your delicate cochlear structures. You should discuss this option with your hearing professional.
Choosing your second cochlear implant system is just like choosing your first - you want optimal hearing performance and the peace of mind. That comes from exceptional implant reliability and knowing that you will have access to the latest sound processing technology upgrades for life. For example, you might want to upgrade the speech processor on your first ear to get the most from your hearing potential in both ears in the easiest possible way.
It's very important for implanted children and adults to receive ongoing auditory, speech and language therapy, regardless of whether they have one implant or two. With more access to sound, therapists may use different approaches to rehabilitation and incorporate practice in areas such as locating where sound is coming from into your program.
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.
- Gantz, B.J., Tyler, R.S., Rubenstein, J.T., et al. (2002). Binaural cochlear implants placed during the same operation. Otol. Neurotol., 23(2): 169-180.
- Marvin, L., Chute, P.M., Rapoza, K. (2007) Speech Changes in Adults with bilateral and unilateral cochlear implants. Presented at 11th International Conference on Cochlear Implants in Children. April 2007 Charlotte, NC Clearer. Fuller.
- Litovsky, RY. Cochlear Whitepaper. Binaural Hearing.
- Litovsky, RY. Potential Advantages from Bilateral Cochlear Implants.