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Bimodal or Bilateral?

At this point it has now been a few weeks since I got my Marvel processors turned on! To say I was excited for this appointment would be an understatement, but no matter how excited I got, I was the most nervous I had ever been for an audiology appointment. I was endlessly excited to get this technology on my right ear, but I was also hesitant to activate my left ear again.

The History Of My Left Ear

For those who don’t know the history of my left ear - I was originally implanted in 2006, when I was 6 years old. The left ear was implanted later than my right ear due to the belief that your second ear needed to be “saved for future technology”. This later changed and I was able to get the second side implanted at 6 years old. I wore this ear but no matter how much time went by my speech recognition was not improving. I had hit a plateau pretty soon after being implanted. Around 13 years old I was getting frustrated by this plateau and lack of improvement, while I continued using the ear, I wanted more from it. Around this time, in middle school, I slowly started wearing the left ear less and less. I didn’t need it when I was around the house, or watching movies, or when listening to music. The second side made it harder for me to hear, it created more noise for my right ear (my strong ear) to compete with. And that’s all it was to me - noise. There were no words or sounds, it was noise. In 2015, my freshman year of high school I decided to do a revision surgery to see if it was something to do with the internal implant. I wanted to try a revision surgery before completely giving up on the ear; I wanted to know I had done everything I could instead of looking back and wondering if I had done everything I could. Unfortunately that revision surgery did not do anything. A couple years later the CROS came out and that became my ideal solution! From that day on I was bimodal. I had accepted that being bilateral wasn’t for me, and I was okay with that. I never looked back on being bilateral, I was proudly bimodal.

Activating My Left Ear, Take 3...

Fast forward to now where we have the Marvel processor. This is an amazing upgrade from Advanced Bionics, this upgrade is everything I could want in a processor! I mean, have you noticed the streaming capabilities?! I only stream a little bit here and there… you know, all of my Zoom classes are streamed, all of my TV shows and movies, and my music… so these days, that’s my entire day! I could not wait to get my hands on this technology, but as I realized what it would mean to not have a CROS bimodal option, I began to wonder what this upgrade meant for me. I had to look back; I had to look back at being bilateral and instead put being bimodal behind me.

It felt like I was going through activation day, take number three. Was I getting the left ear turned on again and getting my hopes up, even by the slightest amount just to be disappointed for a third time? “What if… what if this, what if that…” all I could think about in the days leading up to this audiology appointment. Once I got my processors and physically saw them before my appointment, the anxiety over the left ear went away and was replaced by intense excitement. Intense excitement for the smaller processor, the new color I picked, the tiny activity kit, anticipation for the app, and so on!

My right ear as usual was very anticlimactic when it came to turning on the Marvel processor. That ear is very successful on its own and has been implanted for 19 years, so at this point it really does take a lot to get a reaction out of the ear! My left ear on the other hand was a little more eventful, or emotional rather. It was hard hearing out of that ear again after I thought it was a part of my past. But I decided I did want to give that side a chance with the new technology the Marvel processor contains. In the days after wearing my left processor again, I immediately noticed how my localization skills drastically improved. I also love listening to music with this ear, I always have, so being able to directly stream the music really helped the quality of sound I was getting, and for this implant especially, that was huge! Music really is therapy for my left ear.

Marvel & My Left Ear

It’s been a few weeks and so far I’m wearing my left ear all the time, I’ve even fallen asleep with it on while listening to music! I am enjoying rediscovering sounds with this side and I’m excited to see what this new technology can do for my second implant - the stubborn ear! I realize now that while my fears and anxiety for my audiology appointment were completely valid, I also didn’t need to fear as much as I had. Now I’m focusing on being kind to this ear, being patient, and lowering my expectations. I’ve had to remind myself of this already and have wonderful friends by my side reminding me of this too.

While CROS was what I thought of as my ideal solution, I’m realizing there are things that a second CI gives me too. I love what my CROS gave me, but now I’m focusing on what my second implant can give me going forward. It’ll take some time to get used to, but so far the journey has been exciting and fun, not to mention full of experiments!

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