Views on having a cochlear implant in both ears (bilateral cochlear implantation) have changed a lot in recent years. If a patient has limited benefit from a hearing aid in the other ear, we may talk about the option of a second cochlear implant. If a patient still has usable hearing in the other ear, we may recommend a hearing aid in this ear along with the cochlear implant. This decision is unique to each patient.
Research shows that two ears are better than one. In order for a patient to do their best, bilateral cochlear implantation may be recommended. There are several benefits of having two cochlear implants:
- Better speech understanding in noise
- Localization — being able to know where sounds come from
- Never being without sound. If the internal or external parts from one cochlear implant side need repair or replacement, patient can still hear with the other side.
Most insurance providers support bilateral cochlear implantation. Determining candidacy for bilateral cochlear implantation would be made by the cochlear implant (CI) team – the CI audiologist, the surgeon, and the patient and their family. Certain criteria must be met to be considered a candidate for a second side implant:
- Successful and consistent use of the first device
- Active participation in follow-up care
- No physical contraindications for placement of the implant (any medical reason for not getting implant, such as CT scan results)
- Medically cleared for surgery
- Realistic expectations and commitment to follow-up appointments