The Mirror Crack’d

7 01 2010

One of my concerns about the cochlear implant, and I suspect quite a common one for CI newbies, is the size of the thing. It looks quite big. It’s quite a collection of objects to have on the back of your head and looks very conspicuous when you have no or little hair – I’ve seen quite a few young men on the London underground with a CI stuck to their head. I’ve always thought it looks quite futuristic, like something out of a modern-day Star Trek. The CI comes in two parts. This is the part that sits on the ear and the round part is a magnet, which sits on the head behind the ear;

This is the internal part of the CI. The wires are electrodes which are threaded into the cochlea. The round part is the magnet which connects through the skin to the external magnet.

Wouldn’t it be great if the external part was designed to look like a telephone or something humorous. Listen up, CI companies! Cochlear now have a white CI, the Nucleus 5, and it looks gorgeous. Unfortunately it still looks like a hearing aid and I don’t like people’s reactions to them. Interesting comments from CI users have been that observers are interested, they think it’s some sort of bluetooth device, and this leads to useful conversations, educational and sometimes directly beneficial to the observer … who may happen to be deaf but has not seen a CI or heard of one.

Hearwear: The Future of Hearing was an exhibition held at the V&A London in 2006. The RNID had commissioned 15 product designers to come up with innovative hearing products. The results were prototypes and not available on the market in 2006 …. that was 4 years ago …. I wonder what is happening? Alloy were seeking manufacturers in 2005 for its SoundSpace product. ReSound have a new aid design called Be. I contacted both companies to get an update on hearing aid design. No replies were forthcoming.

You might be interested to read about the Carina on Steve’s blog Deafness and hearing aids. This is a new, fully implantable CI. Looking at this CI, it appears to be for people with a moderate to severe hearing loss, rather than profound. Perhaps in ten years time, they will have improved the technology enough to offer this to profoundly deaf recipients. There are also different kinds of implants: auditory, penetrating, and hybrid. Perhaps there may be developments there.

Back to the current day. It is possible to purchase ‘Skinits‘, customised plastic film to stick on your CI and ring the changes with your outfit or occasion. Cool. Some CIs come with different casing colours that you can swap around. You can also purchase Tube Riders to decorate hearing aids or implants. You can even get a bluetooth headset to work with your CI.

At my CI consultation, I had been told all CIs are the same. I had initially jumped for Cochlear’s Nucleus 5 because it was the newest and flashiest of the lot. I assumed newest was best. But when they said the performance of all brands was the same, alarm bells rang in my head. I did some research and spoke to a number of people, some of whom were electrical engineers. The results are posted on my Cochlear Implants blog page. If you’re considering a cochlear implant, go check this information out! It’s important to know about CI performance – because your surgeon won’t tell you this – surgeons are not experts on CIs. So… based on this new information, I have now finally chosen my preferred brand of CI. I chose Advanced Bionics for their superior performance and better future hardware and software prospects. Hello AB fans, are you out there?

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4 responses

7 01 2010
Howard Samuels

Absolutely! Every time I shop for a cochlear implant, I choose Advanced Bionics! So far they’ve only given me two, but I’m waiting for surround sound.

8 01 2010
Glenice

Hello,

I was reading your thread over on Hearing Journey and decided to check out your blog. I’m a blogger too, as well as a bilateral AB cochlear implant user.

Kudos to you for digging deeper than the promotional materials designed to influence more than truthfully inform.

I feel so lucky that I chose AB in 2001 when we had a lot less information regarding performance. I am really happy with my hearing prothesis’ and one of the things I love best is the auto sound. Fiddling around with different settings for optimal performance is not something I enjoy doing. I don’t like change enough to be doing it for every environment. With auto sound, I put my hearing on and get on with my day. I love it!

I look forward to reading more about your journey and wish you well.
Cheers!
Glenice

18 01 2010
kim

I qualified for the hybrid cochlear implant a couple years ago. Because it’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration my insurance wouldn’t cover it, so I ended up getting another pair of hearing aids. This time the Phonak Naidas with their ‘sound recovery’ system. Essentially they take sound in the speech frequencies and compress so that I’m hearing it in the lower frequency ranges– though it doesn’t sound at all distorted (which is all relative since my hearing has been distorted for the past thirty years) They are the typical shaped Behind-the-Ear things, but I did order them in zebra stripes this time. My audiologist told me, “those are for KIDS!” I’m so sick of medical looking hearing aids. I’m glad designers are creating FUN aids and shapes. A friend wears skin-its and little stick on jewels on her implant (the jewels are the kind that you would get for fingernail decor).

20 01 2010
funnyoldlife

@Howard – I thought you were going to say you were getting a third CI and was wondering where you would put it (your nose?). Haha.

@Glenice – I never would have thought of the automated side of it – thanks for pointing it out. It will be much better than fiddling with a remote control – imagine if you lost the remote?

@Kim – The fingernail decor is a great idea. Now I have visions of taking my CI off in the nail parlour and asking them to paint it to match my nails 🙂

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