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Everything you need to know about cochlear implants

Posted Feb 20 2009 7:22pm

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Choosing a cochlear implant involves a bit of research and may raise some questions. Here is the second part of our list of questions and answers most commonly asked by cochlear implant candidates. Find part one here.

Will I get one or two implants?
Hearing with two ears instead of one delivers well-established benefits such as an increased feeling of safety, better ability to integrate in vibrant groups and a more relaxed listening. It is general standard in audiology to (re-)establish binaural hearing as much as possible. An increasing number of CI centres provide CI for both ears and the NHS recommend bilateral CIs for pre-lingual deafened children.

What does the outside part of the cochlear implant look like?
A cochlear implant has two parts: an internal part (the cochlear implant) and an external part (the speech processor). You can’t see the internal part because it’s under the skin. There are two types of speech processors:
1) The behind-the-ear models which sit behind the ear similar to a hearing aid. Depending on hair length, it may or may not be very visible.
2) The bodyworn model, which is about the size of an iPod Shuffle and can be worn at the waist or in a small pocket. A thin cable connects the microphone to the processor. This type of speech processor is ideal for infants, young children or older adults that want easy direct access to the control panel.

Do I have to limit my sports activity? What about SCUBA diving and swimming?
Having a cochlear implant will not limit your swimming or sports activity. For swimming you will need to remove the external component when you swim, much like you would have to remove a hearing aid. The internal part of the cochlear implant is not affected by water. More aggressive or contact sports require you to wear a helmet to protect your equipment. Boxing and other aggressive sports are discouraged.
For SCUBA divers, the internal implant is validated to withstand pressure at a depth of 25 meters (82 feet) underwater. However, it is recommended that you check with your surgeon or clinician before participating in a dive. There may be other medical conditions that you will need to consider.

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What batteries do the processors take?
Behind-the-ear processors use small high-powered, zinc-air style batteries similar to those used in hearing aids, whilst body-worn processors normally use rechargeable or standard AA or AAA batteries (depending on the model). Your cochlear implant team will be able to suggest the best battery type for your processor.

What is a ‘Microlink’?
A ‘Microlink’ is a miniaturised Radio Aid (FM) system for hearing aid and cochlear implant users. The Microlink state-of-the-art receiver attaches directly to the speech processor, enhancing speech understanding, particularly in difficult hearing situations. This tiny receiver is compatible with Phonak’s range of transmitters as well as those produced by other manufacturers.

Children wishing to take advantage of Mircolink technology can get funding via local education services, whilst adults can seek funding through a variety of different charitable and professional bodies.

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Why do I need to think about MRI scans before choosing an implant?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a technique for taking pictures of soft tissues inside the body. It is a valuable imaging method increasingly used by doctors to help diagnose a wide range of diseases and injuries. Cochlear implants vary in their level of MRI safety. Some may restrict your ability to have an MRI scan, while others are quite safe. Because your implant is with you for life, it is important to consider MRI safety now and for the future.

What is the most technically advanced cochlear implant available today?
The Nucleus Freedom is Cochlear ’s most technically advanced cochlear implant system available. It is the world’s first sweat- and splash-resistant cochlear implant system and the only system on the market with SmartSound, a revolutionary new technology that is designed to enable better hearing in more everyday situations. It’s designed to behave much in the same way as natural hearing, letting you focus on and hear the sounds that are most important.

You can benefit from new technological innovations without the need for additional surgery, as implants such as the Freedom have the power and programming flexibility to handle advancements that aren’t even available today.

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