A Second Cochlear Implant

I have a progressive, neural hearing loss, which, by the time I turned 50, had become severe. I struggled to understand conversations, felt a step behind (or totally out) of social interactions, and was constantly under stress from not being able to hear. Then, in December of 2010 I had a cochlear implant surgically placed on the left side of my head. It’s a delicate operation which entails drilling a hole in the skull, scraping nerves, carefully avoiding others, and threading a squiggly array of electrodes into my cochlea. A month after implantation, the device was turned on and my world was transformed.

It’s not like putting on a pair of new glasses and all of a sudden being able to see with clarity. I went from being severely hard of hearing to hearing with a CI. I don’t hear “normally.” Everything that I hear comes in through a microphone perched on my left ear, and then the sounds are transmitted into the device inside my skull. My brain has had to make sense of electronic inputs. It’s been working hard to interpret the new sounds, which at first came across as synthesized, but now seem (mostly) natural. It’s an on-going process. Some sounds have become more melodic over time. Bird calls are now birdsong. Voices have become more distinct. I can hear footsteps and my dogs’ toenails clicking on pavement. I can hear the timer on the oven go off – from another room! I can hear children ask questions when I do storytimes.

Because I hear from one side only, I am constantly turning to position my head/microphone to the person I want to hear. Neck pain! Invariably, I miss half of the conversation in a group. Also, I have no idea of where sounds come from. If I hear Steve talking, but don’t see him, for all I know, he could be at one end of the house or the other (I’ve walked into empty rooms trying to find him.) When I’m walking the dog I don’t know if a car is coming at me or from behind. So, for awhile now, I’ve been thinking about getting another CI. Being able to hear all around me and knowing where sounds come from are good reasons for getting another CI, but not enough.

My right ear barely functions. I no longer wear a hearing aid on that side, as even with amplification, voices are unintelligible. Still, I can hear a door slam and a fire alarm go off. When my CI isn’t on (when I’m sleeping or in the shower) it’s good not to be in total deafness. Getting a second CI would destroy that. Ironically, what would allow me to hear even more, would also put me into a silent world. I always thought that I’d wait, and get a second CI when I naturally lost all hearing.

The success of a CI is tied into the flexibility of the brain. Everyone who gets a CI will regain some hearing, but how much will vary from person to person. My CI has been one of the most successful my audiologist has ever seen. One of the reasons for that success is that I was not fully deaf before implantation, and so my brain had never stopped being active and engaged in the listening and interpretation of sounds. However, I can tell that the part of my brain that pays attention to and processes sound from the right side has shut down. The longer I go without using it, the harder it will be to get that grey matter to work when I get a second CI. So, I concluded that if I want to be able to hear from my right side, I have to get another CI sooner rather than later.

Still, how to decide whether to undergo surgery when there are risks to the procedure – including losing my sense of taste and facial paralysis?

There was one more thing to consider and it can’t be quantified. I’ve read that there is a beauty to sound when heard bilaterally. The brain is designed to hear from both sides and when it brings the sounds together it becomes rich. Full. Gorgeous.

So, I might be pushing it – I’m hearing so brilliantly well with the one CI – but today, February 28, I’m going in to have a second CI implanted on my right side. It’ll take a week or more to recover from the surgery, and it’ll be a couple of weeks before it gets turned on. That will be right when the birds are singing their springtime songs. I’ll let you know how they sound.

(This weathervane is on my barn. It was purchased here.)


  1. Exciting and scary all at once! I know it will be successful. Are you scheduled to do this soon?

  2. Sending blessings your way, may you be surrounded by healing and beautiful birdsong! Best of luck today. :-)

  3. I hope the surgery goes well, again! I’m looking forward to hearing about your progress.

  4. Good luck and hugs from the West Coast. You will be in our thoughts lots today and over the next couple of weeks.

  5. Terry, my thoughts are with you today. By the way, speaking of bird calls, I still play the recording of Marge (“the Kate Smith of chickens”) when I need cheering up!

  6. My best to you – you are very brave.
    I have hearing loss also (wear hearing aids), so have some understanding. I’m so thankful to hear bird songs!

  7. Best wishes from me, too, for successful surgery. Besides birdsongs, you’ll be able to hear my favorite Spring song, the Spring Peepers! Our peepers are busy early this year, they started February 23ird.

  8. Terry, I think you will be very happy you were courageous and went for the second implant. Praying for your doctors and your quick recovery!

  9. Thoughts and prayers are with you Terry. You have brought me so much joy with your hens I wish joy for you with stereo sound! As I have said previously both of my parents are deaf. My dad was not a good candidate for the CI and my mom with her severe dementia not a candidate either. So, you will need to watch the girls via camera? Wishing you a speedy recovery!

  10. I’m thinking of you today Terry and wish you a good recovery.

    I’m sure the results will, in time, be worth it when you’re sitting on the edge of your woodland next springtime with your hens and goats, listening to birdsong.


  11. Terry- wishing you courage and great success! As my mockingbird sings thru the night I will be thinking of you.

  12. Sending you lots of good thoughts – from here they’ll get there post-op! Hoping for the very best outcome for you.

  13. Good Luck Terry, I hope the surgery goes well. You will be hearing some more Darth Vader hens soon. Cochlear Implants are a wonderful device, and it must be relief to know that if any other family memember be they in the present or future also suffers from the same hearing loss that they too will be able to regain some hearing.

  14. How wonderful to think you will be able to hear in stereo. Take care and hear well.

  15. Dear Terry, Sending positive thoughts and healing energy your way for a successful procedure and speedy recovery. Thank you for brightening our days with your thoughtful and fascinating posts.

  16. Hi Terry, I normally just read your blog rather than comment but I wanted to wish you success on your surgery. I also wanted to say thank you making readers aware of this procedure. My mother is in her early fifties and has been nearly deaf for years. I bet she’d be very interested in this. So thank you and well wishes!

  17. Stay strong Terry! You are in my thoughts and prayers! Hope to hear from you soon!

  18. Best of luck today. Will be sending positive thoughts your way for a speedy recovery!

  19. i wish you all the best today and hope for a comfortble recovery…

  20. God bless you with all success. Please take care of your neck, pinched nerves can cause big time trouble. A chiropractor might be a good idea.

  21. My thoughts are with you. How wonderful to be able to hear your beautiful girls in stereo for the first time!!

  22. Good luck Terry! Prayers have been lifted for a successful surgery and speedy recovery!

  23. Hi!
    Joan and I wish you a speedy recovery. I know Scooter and Lily will be more than willing to curl up next to you on the couch or bed to help you along. Good luck today.

  24. Terry, we’ve all come to love you! Looking forward to hearing of your quick recovery, Knowing that God’s creative love is watching over you and giving your doctors wisdom and skills beyond their own. You will soon hear lovely birds songs in stereo!

  25. Wishing you much love and a speedy recovery, Terry. We’re all rooting for beautiful springtime songbirds in your near future. As many as possible.

  26. Good thoughts for a successful surgery. I can completely relate to the frustration as I had a stapedectomy on the right side last year and it changed my life.

  27. well you kept quiet about that! Well done, I look forward to hollering at you from both sides in May. I believe you have a rather fetching hat to wear while recovering…..

  28. Bon courage Terry!
    God bless you Terry!
    Speedy healing!
    Isten aldasat es segitseget kerem Rad. /hungarien/


  29. What you’ve been through and continue to go through is more than just a challenge. It affects how you live, what you do and every aspect of your life. You’re brave to face these procedures and very open to share this very personal history with us, your on-line community. My payers, thoughts, and well wishes are being sent your way. Take good care. All my best to you.

  30. Good luck Terry. Can’t wait to hear your progress. It will be so good to hear the birds in stereo.

    Speedy recovery, we will all be thinking of you.