Neurelec is a French company that makes the Digisonic SP and Digisonic Binaural implants. Despite being less well known than the other three major manufacturers, its Digisonic SP cochlear implant produces similar results to the other manufacturer’s devices.

In addition, the Digisonic SP binaural implant offers two electrodes on one processor for a price slightly greater than that of a single device. This allows stimulation of both ears for almost the same cost.Neurelec-diSPbin2

Surgery  is in the standard manner for one ear. The contralateral electrode is tunnelled beneath the scalp and then mastoid surgery is carried out to implant the electrode in the other ear.

There are two microphones and earpieces connected by a wire behind the neck. Picture4

Sound is picked up from both sides of the head, transferred to the processor, and both ears are stimulated electrically. It is hoped that this arrangement will preserve the inter-aural loudness and timing cues between the the two ears, and may produce better outcomes than two separate cochlear implants which do not talk to each other. It remains to be seen whether this theoretical advantage translates to clinical reality.

The surgery takes longer than for a single implant, but is quicker than for bilateral implants. The main advantage over bilateral implantation is cost, and this is the only NHS option for adults in the UK who want bilateral stimulation and do not have another sensory impairment such as visual loss.