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Swimming with Cochlear Implants

Posted Aug 23 2008 3:20pm
Drew's Dad wrote a post in February after he found a wonderful You Tube! video showing a way to swim with a cochlear implant on . I have to tell you how excited we were to have found this, as I can not imagine Drew not being able to hear at the beach or the pool. He relies solely on oral communication, so it would be very difficult to communicate with him if he was not wearing his cochlear implants. And as Drew is all boy, we need him to hear us tell him no, stop, don't throw that, etc!

On our recent beach vacation we found a couple of modifications to the video helpful:
  • Sealing: We modified the food saver technique by making two seals on the bag. We would seal the food saver bag once, then move the bag about 1/2" and seal again. This made us 100% confidant that the seals were clean and that the processor would not get any water on it.

  • Increase Magnet Strength: We increased the strength of the coil magnet to help hold the bag to Drew's head a lot better. Typically Drew wears a strength "1" magnet. While using the food saver method, we used a strength "2", which held the coil in place much better, making it not only easy to get the swim cap on, but also keep the magnet in the proper place as Drew ran, rolled, swam and did all sorts of other crazy thing. (Note: We used a strength "1" on Day 1 at the beach and were very frustrated with the ability to keep his ears on.)

  • One: For a bilateral child, only use one implant while swimming. We tried using two and it made getting the swim cap on virtually impossible. There is just too much equipment under the swim cap. It seemed like every time we would get one on with the swim cap, the other side was falling off. So, on Day 2 at the beach, we used just one processor, and had excellent results. (Also note, should you have an accident with a processor getting wet, your child will still have an ear to hear from).

  • Which Ear?: For a bilateral child with varying map intensity, use the ear that has the "weaker" map. Drew's left ear requires much less "power" than his right, so we used the left ear while at the beach, just in case the coil became attached to the wrong ear. When Drew's right processor is accidentally put on his left ear it causes him great pain, so we avoided any accidental issues by "waterproofing" the left ear.

  • Swim Cap Issues: We had a problem with Drew not liking the fact that the swim cap is tight on his head. We avoided having Drew pull his ear off multiple times by allowing him to wear his regular ears to the beach. We changed Drew to the "waterproofed" ear (note the singularity) before letting him out of the stroller. At this time he had so much to do that he wouldn't try to pull the swim cap off. Then we placed his regular ears in the zip lock bag and placed them in our beach bag until we were ready to leave the beach or pool.

I can honestly say that the food saver bag does waterproof the processor, as Drew pulled his swim cap and ear off while sitting in the ocean! The bag was floating in the water, without a drop of water on the processor. For our next trip to the beach I will be bringing a critter clip with us, so we can attach the food saver bag to Drew's swim trunks so that his ear doesn't float away in the ocean!

Overall, the waterproofing technique worked very well, and we were really happy with how well Drew could hear us, even with only one ear, the background noise of the ocean and a bag covering the microphones. He was clearly able to hear us well, even at a distance. At one point Drew was playing in a water puddle about 50 yards from where I was sitting (with his Dad supervising) and he heard me tell him to "jump" in the puddle.

Both Drew's Dad and I commented that we wish we would have brought one of Drew's Hanna Andersson pilot caps to try as the way to keep the coil on Drew's head. We felt very confidant with the waterproofing of the processor, and we both think that Drew would have been more comfortable with the pilot cap, as opposed to the swim cap, as he is used to wearing those at home.

As I read cochlear implant message boards, it seems as though waterproofing hearing technology is a "hot topic". Is there anything you would like to add that has worked well for your family? If so, please leave a comment.

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