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The world’s first waterproof cochlear implant processor

Posted Sep 20 2011 3:00am

Delivering great hearing in and out of the water. Get ready for a whole new way to hear! Swim, bike, run with it. Sweat on it. No problem!

The Neptune is a new waterproof and dustproof processor from Advanced Bionics with IP68 (ingress protection 6, or dust tight, against solid/foreign bodies and 8, which indicates protection against complete continuous submersion in water). The processor is off the ear and quite small, about the size of a tube of lipstick, and is available in a number of colours.

The controls for the processor are removable, which means you can wear nothing on the ear. The first-ever freestyle design can be worn in any way you like – like an MP3 player, clipped to a collar, swim shirt, bra strap, arm band, bathing cap, hair band, goggles strap, helmet strap, baseball cap, necklace, popped into your pocket, clipped in your hair (or on your chest hair!), or worn with one of the accessories released with the processor. No need to worry about a BTE falling off your ear or getting wet.

All this free-styling means added functionality to your lifestyle – Poof! Pool party here I come! Attend your aerobics class and actually hear the instructor instead of copying the person nearest to you. Participate in family days at the beach. Go biking, running or fishing in the rain. Go biking – the microphone is in the headpiece, which will help with wind noise. Go sailing without worrying about the waves. You can use it in salt water, just be sure to rinse it in fresh water afterwards. Sing along to music in the shower or bath, talk in the hot tub, on your goggles when swimming, when playing your favourite sports …. the choice is yours.

The processor has the latest sound technology from AB with AutoSound automatically adjusting sound levels without the wearer needing to adjust the controls. HiRes Fidelity 120 stimulates 120 points across the auditory nerve for greater enjoyment of music. The addition of ClearVoice allows the wearer to hear speech clearly and easily in noisy situations. The Neptune is only compatible with SoundWave 2.1 or higher, and won’t work with the older C1 implants, however it will run CIS and MPS.

It runs on one disposable or rechargeable AAA battery, giving more than a full day’s worth of hearing on one charge. The 3-pin connector is the standard Europort (IEC 118-6) and standard patch cords are available off the shelf. Plus, it will accept the Phonak MicroLink (and other) FM receivers. A really neat part of Neptune’s engineering is the Neptune Connect, containing the controls and the Europort jack. With this, once the settings are made, that part pops off, leaving a much slimmer profile.

There are two microphone options, one of which is waterproof. The fully submersible microphone is an omni-directional submersible IP68 microphone (IEC 60529), which is in the magnetic headpiece. This microphone allows sound to pass un-attenuated through a protecting hydrophobic membrane, which also blocks water. It does mean the wearer loses the benefits of the T-mic. Bluetooth functionality is not supported.

The Neptune is generating a lot of excitement in the cochlear implant community.  A cochlear implant user says – “I wonder what things will sound like underwater! Does anybody remember playing in the pool, talking with your friend? It sounded like muffled bubble words! Maybe this will be another situation in which AB cochlear implant users will hear even better than their normally hearing peers!!”

The Neptune will be available in the UK from December 2011; you could purchase one if you want, but the NHS will only provide a unilateral recipient with one speech processor. The Neptune is currently awaiting regulatory approval in the USA, and is already approved in Canada.

To summarise, the Neptune’s advantages are that it is waterproof, there is nothing worn on the ear, and it accepts conventional and rechargeable batteries. The disadvantages are that the microphone location inconveniences phone users, you can’t use Bluetooth with it, and you may have problems deciding (or finding) a place to clip it.

… so how am I going to skinny dip?

Neptune technical specifications

Neptune brochure

Let's get wet!

Ready to swim

FM Neptune

Neptune

Neptunes

Neptune connect

Neptunes

Neptune header with FM

Ready for bath time

Ready for the rain

Fun in the hot tub

Neptune clip


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