There are now many recipients of unilateral cochlear implants who have usable residual hearing in the non-implanted ear. To avoid auditory deprivation and to provide binaural hearing, a hearing aid or a second cochlear implant can be fitted to that ear. This article addresses the question of whether better binaural hearing can be achieved with binaural/bimodal fitting (combining a cochlear implant and a hearing aid in opposite ears) or bilateral implantation. In the first part of this article, the rationale for providing binaural hearing is examined. In the second part, the literature on the relative efficacy of binaural/bimodal fitting and bilateral implantation is reviewed. Most studies on comparing either mode of bilateral stimulation with unilateral implantation reported some binaural benefits in some test conditions on average but revealed that some individuals benefited, whereas others did not. There were no controlled comparisons between binaural/bimodal fitting and bilateral implantation and no evidence to support the efficacy of one mode over the other. In the third part of the article, a crossover trial of two adults who had binaural/bimodal fitting and who subsequently received a second implant is reported. The findings at 6 and 12 months after they received their second implant indicated that binaural function developed over time, and the extent of benefit depended on which abilities were assessed for the individual. In the fourth and final parts of the article, clinical issues relating to candidacy for binaural/ bimodal fitting and strategies for bimodal fitting are discussed with implications for future research.
- bilateral implantation
- bimodal hearing