Felicity Bleckly bilateral cochlear implanteeFelicity Bleckly recently had her second cochlear implant switched on and discovered that she had misunderstood much about bilateral hearing.

Here she describes it as only a hearing impaired person can.

Having a second cochlear is far greater than simply having two ears working.

I wasn’t missing much in the detail, but I was missing so much of the experience, the nuances and quality of hearing. There were many things I didn’t understand about bilateral hearing. I might have been hearing or reading the words used to describe it but I couldn’t ever remember hearing from two ears so the descriptions meant nothing to me. The one which really stands out for me is 'hear in stereo'.

Let me explain: A deaf person may never have heard sound – or so long ago that trying to describe it has no meaning. Describing sound to a deaf person is like describing a panoramic vista to a blind person who has never seen a hill or river or even a tree.

A single-sided hearing person has lost the nuances (dimensions) of sound. Describing being bilateral (or stereo) to a single sided hearing person is like describing colour, dimension and range to a blind person. The significant things about a vista are not so much the objects but those things which can’t easily be described – colour, dimensions and range – the nuances which go to make up the vista and give it beauty beyond the individual objects.
For me 'hearing in stereo' meant hearing the same sound from both sides (& yes I could see that perhaps this might help me hear a bit better). But the difference is far greater. For instance as a successful single-sided Cochlear implantee I got great enjoyment when I could listen to music again. I loved the sound of a choir – but a choir was a total single sound in just the same way we identify a car horn is a single sound. So too, an orchestra was a single pleasant sound. But with bilateral hearing, instead of hearing a choir I can pick out the individual groups which go to make up the total sound - I can hear the harmonies of the bass and the counter melodies of the sopranos within the sound which is ‘choir’. Now when listening to an orchestra I can distinguish between the violins and flutes where before they all melded together as one sound. It is these kind of nuances which lift the hearing experience for someone when they have bilateral hearing.

Bilateral hearing may not be life changing in quite the same way as going from deaf to single-sided hearing, but it does have an amazing WOW factor enhancing life experiences in ways which are difficult to describe and go beyond simply having two ears.

Now I can hear the changes in the sound of water running when I move around the kitchen, when I'm turning my head in the car I hear the difference the car indicator clicking sound makes. I can easily tolerate the 100% increase in volume yet the background noise is easier and the ABCs call tune sounds so different! Susan Boyle’s tones became sweet and true and the tune completely clear but the winner is when I’m playing the piano. All the notes have an additional sound quality. I can even hear a wrong note among all the right notes.

So, for those of you thinking about becoming bilateral, imagine going from one eye to two eyes or B&W to colour television. I'll never look back.