With my cochlear implant in one ear and my trusty hearing aid in the other, I will have what is known as “bimodal” hearing. I’ll be getting a new hearing aid, the Phonak Naida Link, as part of my implant package – which essentially means that I’m getting a new hearing aid covered by insurance! The Link is the important piece of my new bimodal solution because of the amazing, brand new technology it offers.
While I would still be bimodal with my current aid (which I love and will be kind of sad to give up), the system that I have chosen means that my hearing aid and cochlear implant will be able to actually talk to each other, share signals, and adjust based on the sounds both are receiving rather than just one or the other. If one has bilateral implants (one in each ear) and has matching processors for them, they already have this solution. However, this is the first of it’s kind for bimodal users and I’m excited to be trying something brand new.
So what does all of that really mean? It’s like if you have an iPhone and a Mac, or a Samsung phone and tablet. You can really easily sync and share data across them, right? This is the same thing. I’ll be able to adjust the volume or program on one device and it will change in the other. If I am listening to music, or even on the phone, I’ll be able to hear the same thing through both devices. This will be really weird and new to me – remember that I’ve had single-sided hearing for 17 years. The idea of hearing in both ears, or in stereo, is kind of crazy to me. I don’t really remember what that’s like! Think about this – I will be able to hold my phone up to my right ear, just like a normal person does, but I’ll be able to hear it in BOTH ears. When was the last time a person with normal hearing can say they did that?
Bilateral hearing is super important for many reasons. Like normal hearing, you will always do better in background noise and understanding of speech when your brain is adjusting to two signals, after all, we have two ears for a reason. This is part of the reason people with single-sided deafness have so many issues. If you are only using one ear to hear, your ear is working overtime and you have a hard time distinguishing the important sounds from the background sounds. And you get so ridiculously tired after listening all day with only one signal. I know a lot of SSD people, and sometimes I think it’s worse to be completely deaf in one ear than partially deaf in both. If you are completely deaf in one but mostly full hearing in the other, there is really no hearing aid that can help you (except for maybe the Phonak Cros II system – which my friend Jennifer just got – I’m curious how that is working for her 6 months from now). So this ability to hear in both ears is one of the main reasons I finally decided to get a cochlear implant in my right ear – but the technology to be bimodal and have the devices sync is definitely what solidified in my mind that the technology was finally where I wanted it to be.
The catch in all of this, of course, is that the program that connects the two is not quite ready for release yet – which means it is unlikely to be ready by the 31st when I am activated. I’m told anywhere from “early fall” to “a couple of months” to “end of the year”. I’ll be kind of upset if I chose this option and don’t actually get the benefit of it until the end of the year, honestly.