Last Friday I had the pleasure of participating in the training of two audiologists learning how to activate a new CI recipient. I received an email from one of the Clinical Specialists with the manufacturer of my cochlear implants, Advanced Bionics, to see if I was interested and available to be part of the training process – of course I said yes!
Since I didn’t clear it with any of these great ladies to use their names, I’m leaving them out, along with other identifying information, for now.
These two audiologists hadn’t had much involvement with cochlear implants for the past few years. They have only been involved with fitting hearing aids. Due to a new opportunity at the center where they work, they will be seeing cochlear implant patients for activations and subsequent mappings within the next several months.
We started out by me sharing my background with hearing loss and the journey I’ve been on that led me to receive cochlear implants. They had great questions for me as we talked. They asked me specifically why I chose Advanced Bionics cochlear implants – I was given the opportunity to choose between all three manufacturers within the US. Let me say right now that I have great admiration, respect and gratitude for all three companies. They are all investing in research, technology, and customer service to help the thousands of people like me who have hearing loss. I chose Advanced Bionics for a few specific reasons, though. From my extensive research, it’s my opinion that the technology at AB is superior, as it the potential for being able to scale it up in the future. I’m in this for the long haul and that means until the day I’m no longer walking this planet. I need a technology partner that will be right there with me and I think AB is the right partner.
Another main reason is something called the t-mic. Microphones on most cochlear implants are located on top of the processor, which sits on top of your ear. One brand offers a one-piece processor that only has a headpiece that connects by a magnet to the magnet within your head – no processor on the ear. The microphone is located within the headpiece. I have an option where I use the processor microphone only. It’s used when I have a program on that is a zoom program that’s focused on pulling sound in mostly from the front of me. I also have a program where I use the microphone on the headpiece. I use this when I swim. Think for a second about how you would use the telephone if your microphone was located at the top of your ear or on the headpiece located somewhere on the side of your head. Many people opt for speaker phone or some type of Bluetooth phone solution. Both of which are Ok options, but not my first choice. The t-mic is a microphone that is attached to the front of the processor that sits on top of my ear. It curves down and hangs right in the opening of my ear canal – the place where sound is normally received for hearing, the place where telephones are designed to send sound into when holding the phone to your ear. That, for me, was a game changer. I hadn’t listened to a telephone conversation that way since sometime in 2013.
For the training, we used a Naida Q90 processor that the Clinical Specialist brought along with my headpiece (since it already had the number of magnets I need). That way, my maps (programs) wouldn’t be altered. Each of the audiologists took a turn doing an initial activation on me asking me to use a chart to indicate if the sound I heard was anywhere from barely audible to uncomfortably loud. They each had the opportunity to use the software in a real-life application, something I doubt happens very frequently.
They asked me about my experience with the various features available like WindBlock and SoundRelax. We discussed the difference in sound between the two sound coding strategies: HiRes Optima S and HiRes Optima P.
I think this was a good experience for everyone, I know that I walked away very satisfied. There is an initial level of dependence on your audiologist that is universal. We count on them to know about the brand we chose, work that brand’s software like an expert, and be versed in different features and settings that will get each of us to the place of personalized hearing quality that we long for. I remember being in nursing school many, many years ago. I’m forever grateful to the patients who were gracious enough to let me care for them, many times doing something for the first, second or third time – probably with shaky hands and a racing heart.
In case there is any question – you bet I’m going to say “yes” every time I can to an invitation like this!!