Bilateral implantation is cochlear implantation in both ears. Hearing with two ears, also called binaural hearing, has distinct advantages such as improved speech understanding in noise, better speech recognition and sound localization. In general, it can be said that “stereo” hearing (with two ears) is less strenuous than “mono” hearing (with one ear).
Unlike adults who may have had hearing and then lost it, children usually learn to listen using only the sound from the cochlear implant. It is common knowledge that it is more difficult to learn certain things later in life – such as learning second languages, when he or she has the best chance of making use of sound for the development of language. It is illustrated that children who received their bilateral implants prior to age 3½ were able to make the most of the brain’s ability to learn. Bilaterally implanted children respond much faster in group situations; they react more quickly and appropriately in everyday situations and acquire language spontaneously.
The distinct advantages of bilateral implantation have also been well documented in adults. Several studies have reported restored ability to localize sounds and that adult bilateral users have demonstrated all of the binaural effects that normal individuals enjoy Furthermore, the age of implantation in adults appears to have no bearing on the performance of the cochlear implant, meaning that older adults can also obtain the same benefits as younger implanted adults.
Most surgeons agree that implanting a second device is really no different than implanting the first. Candidacy requirements are the same, surgical risks should not vary, and potential benefits/limitations of one implant apply equally to two implants. However, your implant team may have varying recommendations or opinions regarding the timing of surgery. Bilateral implants can be placed either simultaneously or sequentially depending on your decision and consultation with your surgeon.