Benefits of Bilateral

It’s been just over a week since my surgery and I’m happy to report things have gone far better this time around. I never even opened my heavy-duty pain meds and managed just with extra strength Tylenol. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still pain & discomfort, but it’s manageable. I also had no problems with my taste buds this time. I think that might be my biggest relief – it really sucked not being able to taste my food for 5 months! This time I took off the nasty crusty bandage on the second day and replaced it with a nice fresh one. That one has since been removed as well since there has been no bleeding/leaking issues since the 3rd day. 🙂 I’ve managed to bathe AND wash my hair (keeping the incision dry) a few times thanks to my totally awesome undercut hairstyle. It’s amazing how much more human you feel when you’re clean. 

I still have to take it easy and have been doing a fabulous job of becoming one with my recliner. Unfortunately, my sleep patterns are totally messed up and I find myself unable to drift off until 3 or 4 in the morning. I’ve been passing the time with Netflix marathons and have almost completed the first 3 seasons of “The Blacklist” among a few random movies/shows. 

If you know me or have read my previous posts, you know how big of a deal it is that I received my bilateral implant. As I mentioned in a previous post, I owe it all to my amazing audiologist. I’ve been spending a lot of time in thought and am continually overwhelmed with gratitude to my audiologist as well as the people at Advanced Bionics. It’s a very powerful feeling of indebtedness (in a good way!) that you get when someone is responsible for giving you your life back. So today I decided I had to figure out a way to show my appreciation. 

I came up with this design (disclaimer, I am not the creator of this concept; I had seen it on Facebook) and decided to have it printed on nice stainless steel travel mugs. Took me a good while to find a place to have them printed but finally did. So, I took a picture of my processor and threw this together in Photoshop. The mugs should be in by the end of the month, just in time for activation day! I really hope they like them and find them useful. The design is significant to me because the 2 processors represent bilateral hearing and the heart shape indicates how much I love the world of sound that they will bring me. I really can’t wait to give them their mugs!

I have also spent a LOT of time thinking of being bilateral this week. Obviously, I’ve been dreaming of this for years, but as the time draws near for me to actually hear in both ears, it has dwelled in the forefront of my mind. 

Hearing bilaterally is natural. That’s why God created us with two ears. There are numerous benefits of bilateral hearing that most people probably don’t even give a second thought to. To start with, there is less “hearing fatigue” and it’s easier to hear in noisy settings as you have two ears sharing the job of listening. Sound location is also made possible with 2 ears. Stereo (surround) sound (capturing sound from all directions) is only available when you have 2 ears. There is an increase in speech comprehension as well, when you have 2 functioning ears. All that stuff comes naturally to those with normal hearing. 

I’ve been severe to profoundly deaf in my left ear since I was a teen so I grew up relying totally on my right ear (even though it was moderate to severe). I would watch people talk on the phone, switching from ear to ear with envy. I had to be positioned on the left side of the classroom so that my right ear was facing the teacher. I always had to think about where I sat at a table to maximize conversation comprehension. Even my friends knew not to talk to me on my left side. When one ear doesn’t work, you also end up with “head shadow effect” which means sounds originating directly on the side of your bad ear are missed because your head blocks the sound. 

Going bilateral will hopefully give me all those great benefits I mentioned above but also a few more. The most important benefit, to me, though is redundancy. I will now have two implants & two processors in the event that one malfunctions or breaks. This single benefit, in and of itself makes the whole surgery worth it in my opinion. It is a huge reassurance knowing that the failure of both devices at the same time is a very slim possibility so I will hopefully always have access to sound. 

With my upcoming activation day, I am doing my best to keep my expectations in check. Because my left ear has always been my weakest ear, the likelihood of a stellar activation like my right is slim. Plus, I have had no stimulation of the auditory nerve for about 6 months where my right only went just over 4 months without stimulation. Neither of those factors are good. However, my surgeon indicated that sequential bilateral implants performed within a year of each other show comparable success to simultaneous bilateral implants and faster rehab in comparison to sequential with more than a year in between. 

You may think that since I have 1 brain and it’s already learned how to hear with a cochlear implant that a second one would be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I have to prepare myself for another long haul of training & rehab to hopefully bring my hearing up to par with my right ear. I’ve committed to doing just as much rehab as I did with my right (more if necessary) as I want to maximize my ability to hear. There is also a slim chance that both ears will hear equally well as typically, CI users still favor one over the other. Regardless, there is almost always a marked improvement in speech comprehension, especially in noise, with 2 implants over 1. The biggest hope with all this though is to gain relief from my Tinnitus. At the least, it should help mask the roar, but perhaps with both auditory nerves receiving stimulation, my brain may finally quiet. Only time will tell just how well I will be able to hear with my left ear and I am anxious to find out! Just 3 more weeks to activation!


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