Pretty much anyone who is eligible for one cochlear implant is a candidate for two, whether she/he already has one or not. The second device can be placed during the same surgery as the first one, or as a second separate surgery. It cost significantly less to get both at the same time because the individual only has to go to the hospital and receive anesthesia once. For children who became deaf due to meningitis, a leading cause of childhood deafness, parents who are considering bilateral implantation are highly recommended to get both devices at the same time as the disease can cause bone to fill the cochlea. That bone can make drilling into the area to place the electrode array more difficult.
There are some great pros to bilatera cochlear implants:
- Studies show that they increase the development of oral communication.
- Helps individuals localize sound (they can know where the origin of the noise is)
- Helps with understanding speech in crowded spaces
- Many users report being able to follow group conversations better
- Sound, even if one device breaks
However, there are some downsides:
- More costly (surgery, second device, upkeep such as batteries and warranties)
- Loss of residual hearing (any residual acoustic hearing, which does offer better quality and music enjoyment will be lost)
- Insurance companies policies are erratic, so many do not cover the second cochlear implant
- Possible inability to use future technology. Many “save” the second ear for the possibilities of future developments.
It is already a standard to use bilateral hearing aids for those who are hard of hearing, especially for children. The industry and medical fields are certainly moving towards bilateral cochlear implants, as shown in this American Speech-Language Hearing Association article. There are tremendous benefits to having a second device, but the cost, as always when discussing cochlear implants, is a barrier.