I started thinking about going bilateral about a year after getting a cochlear implant in my left ear. I thought about it off and on and really didn’t get serious about it until the residual hearing in my right ear was so minimal that there wasn’t anything there that was of use to me. That was just over five years after getting my left ear implant. Along with my residual hearing having dwindled down to next to nothing, there were things that had started to bother me, such as not having any sense of direction regarding where sound was coming from, or always having to direct conversation to my left side.
In the spring of 2007 I started the process by telling my audiologist that I was ready to pursue the second implant. She had recently tested my right ear, so all the medical documentation was ready and the request was then sent in to my insurance. Approval quickly followed.
My first cochlear implant was a life changing experience for me. To have that much sound was a great relief from the struggles I experienced in communicating. I had become an excellent lip reader, but that takes a lot of energy and I was getting very tired. With the sound I received from the implant, I didn’t have to work so hard at reading lips. Over time, I learned to listen again and understand more of what I hear.
Because my deafness was severe, the amount of sound I received on one side from the implant seemed like a lot and at first I had the sensation of surround sound. Later, I started to notice that I could not tell where sound was coming from. Eventually I started turning my left side towards sounds that I wanted to hear. Finally, I felt blank on my right side and I was always trying to adjust for that.
My first implant was in 2001 and I wasn’t ready for the second until 2007. I was reluctant to part with the little bit of hearing that I had in my right ear. Bilateral implantation was something I had discussed with audiologists on several occasions, so I knew that it was being researched and the studies were showing that deaf people with bilateral implants did better than those with just one. When contemplating getting a second cochlear implant, I wondered what the next big leap in hearing technology would be. Did I want to wait for it? Ultimately, I decided that I want to live each day to its fullest now, including hearing the best that I can with today’s technology.
My husband and I met with the surgeon in early July and he would have scheduled the surgery that very summer, but for various reasons, we scheduled the surgery for that fall.
On October 10, 2007, I had my second cochlear implant surgery, to give me sound on my right side. I was hooked up one week later, on the 17th. Immediately, I felt more whole. It was an interesting feeling because I didn’t know that I wasn’t feeling whole, but during the mapping when the sound on the new implant was turned off, the sensation of silence on my right side was so strong it felt like half my world had been turned off.
I have been hearing bilaterally for 9 months now and I love it. Along with an improved understanding of sound in general, I have a better sense of direction, and like the old slogan for Doublemint gum, it is, “Double the pleasure, double the fun.” How I hear with two cochlear implants is still changing and improving, and may continue to change for some time. My right ear has a lot to recover and my left ear wants to run the show. I do have to practice some therapy by shutting off the left side to make the right side do some work and get better. As long as there is room for improvement, I will keep trying to make it better because I don’t want to miss anything! I love to hear.