Friday, June 4, 2010

Defying Science

So, there's a slight bit of controversy over the effects of having two cochlear implants versus just one plus a hearing aid. I personally believe that they both have their pros and cons, but my own experience has led me to believe that it's much easier conversing in background noise with two implants, and music only sounds better. With a hearing and a CI, it always felt like it was just amplifying the background noise- and that's coming from someone who had a lot of residual hearing. In addition to that, I've found it to be practical not having a "good" side, and I think it's given me confidence in social situations. However, I did find this article to be interesting. I am not sure how reliable the study was, and to be honest, I take it with a grain of salt. For those of you interested, the abstract concludes with

"Although the bimodal cochlear implant group performed better than the bilateral group on most parts of the four pitch-related tests, the differences were not statistically significant. Evaluation of the subject with normal hearing in the contralateral ear showed that the addition of low-frequency sound, even when unintelligible and limited to below 150 Hz, significantly improved cochlear implant speech recognition with a competing talker. Conclusion This research adds to the existing studies that show no significant difference between bimodal and bilateral cochlear implant users."

I'd be interested to hear the opinions of other bimodal but now bilateral users, as well as others. I certainly don't think I'm alone in my experiences!


  1. I really want to hear from those bilateral users too. I currently have one CI and one HA, like you. the sound input from my HA alone is horrible, compared to the CI, but for some strange reason, they work together somewhat well. On the other hand, the implanted ear was the one that had a HA during most of my childhood, so can I reasonably expect that my unaided ear will have equally good sound input? I'm so on the fence about this. My audiologist said it *probably* will not make that big of a difference in terms of speech discrimination. I can't use the phone with the CI at all and don't really expect to. I'm still lost in a group, like at the dinner table.

    whoa - I just read your "About Me" section that you're only 15! such sophisticated questions you are asking. :) BTW, there's nothing wrong with being anal and it DOES make you a better person. haha.

  2. Thanks for the comment! I also post my blogs on the Cochlear Community, and so far everyone who has responded is happy with going bilateral. My audiologist has told me that there's usually one ear better than another, but often not for one reason or another. Obviously, if you've never heard anything in your unimplanted ear, your speech discrimination with that side alone would probably be relatively low. But if it has had *some* access to sound, I don't think you can predict how it will turn out. I will say that my audiologist has had some people at my center (mostly teens born profoundly deaf and implanted early in one ear) who don't use their 2nd implant at all, because it makes their hearing worse. I think most of them probably never went through the AVT/rehab with the second side, but I don't know for sure.

    One benefit I find to being bilateral is that settings for noisy environments work SO much better when you can use them on both ears, which may be part of the reason I find I hear so much better in noisy restaurants and such. But the decision is ultimately up to you :)

  3. How good was your speech recognition with just the HA alone, before you went bilateral? Ben's is great, far better than anyone would predict from his audiogram, which is why we're hesitant to go bilateral any time soon. It's not like he's just getting a little sound stimulation from the HA; it's actually contributing to his operational hearing. But then I hear from all the bilats out there about how great it was to go bilateral, and I start to second guess. I guess we'll wait until Ben is old enough to be part of the decision.

  4. Hey Julia,
    These were my scores from the hearing test they did for my bilateral evaluation:

    HINT- 60dB (no noise) average- 79%
    CNC Monosyllabic Word Test average- 24%
    HINT (with noise): 0%
    If you go back to my posts from July 2009, you can read more about my experiences with becoming bilateral. The adult hearing tests (especially the words) are much more difficult than the kid ones that they always gave me until I went to my CI center (rather than "hotdog" and "baseball" it's "duck" or "bomb"), and I probably wouldn't have been considered eligible had they used the othertest. I was like Ben in the sense that I did have a lot of input coming in from the hearing aid, and a lot of speech recognition. However, it just sounded bad compared to a CI.

    I think your decision to wait is a good one, since Ben is geting that stimulation (and actual hearing) with his hearing aid. If his hearing gets worse, I would definitely implant his other ear. Although you may have trouble convincing him when he's older- most of my friends that have CIs (and do really well) refuse to have the surgery to go bilateral. I think part of it is because they were so young when they were implanted, and don't have a solid memory of the surgery. There's very much of a mentality of "I'm doing fine as I am, why have surgery?!"

    Anyway, he's doing amazing with being bimodal so I don't think you have anything to worry about. Also, who knows what they'll come out with in the next 5 years!


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