OBJECTIVE: Binaural hearing has been shown to support better speech perception in normal-hearing listeners than can be achieved with monaural stimulus presentation, particularly under noisy listening conditions. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether bilateral electrical stimulation could confer similar benefits for cochlear implant listeners. DESIGN: A total of 26 postlingually deafened adult patients with short duration of deafness were implanted at five centers and followed up for 1 yr. Subjects received MED-EL COMBI 40+ devices bilaterally; in all but one case, implantation was performed in a single-stage surgery. Speech perception testing included CNC words in quiet and CUNY sentences in noise. Target speech was presented at the midline (0 degrees), and masking noise, when present, was presented at one of three simulated source locations along the azimuth (-90, 0, and +90 degrees). RESULTS: Benefits of bilateral electrical stimulation were observed under conditions in which the speech and masker were spatially coincident and conditions in which they were spatially separated. Both the "head shadow" and "summation" effects were evident from the outset. Benefits consistent with "binaural squelch" were not reliably observed until 1 yr after implantation. CONCLUSIONS: These results support a growing consensus that bilateral implantation provides functional benefits beyond those of unilateral implantation. Longitudinal data suggest that some aspects of binaural processing continue to develop up to 1 yr after implantation. The squelch effect, often reported as absent or rare in previous studies of bilateral cochlear implantation, was present for most subjects at the 1 yr measurement interval.