Using a cochlear implant
Answers to some common questions about living with a cochlear implant.
The Nucleus 5 and Nucleus 6 sound processors have an IP57 rating, which means that you can splash around in water and walk in the rain without worrying that it will affect your processor.
If you want to go swimming, you should use additional protection for your sound processor. If you regularly participate in water activities you can choose the Aqua+, a flexible silicone sleeve that fits over Nucleus 5 or Nucleus 6 sound processors (only with rechargeable batteries). When used in conjunction with the Aqua+ Coil, you can enjoy water activities without cumbersome cases or additional cables. The Aqua+ is IP68 rated and can be submerged under 3 metres of water for up to 2 hours. For just occasional uses, you can use the Aqua Accessory, a plastic enclosure that completely seals in your processing unit, cable and coil.
With regard to scuba diving, the internal implant is validated to withstand pressure at a depth of 25 metres (82 feet) underwater. However, since Cochlear's testing for the Aqua+ and Aqua Accessory did not exceed 3 metres, using them at greater depths is not recommended. You should check with your surgeon or clinician before participating in a dive, because there may be other medical conditions that you will need to consider.
For contact sports you should wear a helmet to protect your equipment. Boxing and other aggressive sports are discouraged.
The magnetic field in MRI scanners exerts force on any magnetic materials in the vicinity. This can be an issue for people with some cochlear implants, particularly those with a fixed magnet.
If you have one of the Nucleus® 24 range of cochlear implants you can have an MRI scan:
- up to 1.5 Tesla leaving the magnet in place during the scan1
- over 1.5 Tesla and up to 3.0 Tesla by temporarily removing the magnet in a simple outpatient procedure1
Over 0.2 Tesla and up to 1.5 Tesla, a head bandage and splint may be required.1
MRI compatibility varies by country depending on regulatory approvals in each country. Please check the MRI guidance provided in your country by contacting your local cochlear representative or clinic before proceeding with an MRI scan.
Behind-the-ear processors use small high-powered, zinc-air style batteries similar to those used in hearing aids, whilst bodyworn 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.
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 sound 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. For more information refer to Phonak's website. Children wishing to take advantage of microlink technology may get funding via local education services, whilst adults can seek funding through a variety of different charitable and professional bodies.
You can safely use these items as they have low magnetic strength.
Yes, cochlear implant recipients can have x-rays at the dentist.
Batteries for the behind-the-ear model of sound processor typically last several days, whilst the rechargeable batteries used in the bodyworn processor normally last for one day. Generally if you are in noisy environments your sound processor works harder and therefore requires more battery power.
Whatever your personal taste, listening to music is one of life’s joys. For some implant recipients, listening to music comes very easily, but for others, it may take a little time.
It’s important to remember that cochlear implants were primarily designed to help with speech perception. Whilst speech and music share some acoustic similarities, there are also several critical differences. Factors like your individual hearing biology, the type of music, the listening conditions and even your personal motivation can all affect your ability to enjoy music. With practice, you’ll develop the skills you need to hear music. The important thing is to establish realistic expectations. Music may not sound exactly the same as before your hearing loss, but with the right approach, many recipients find they can enjoy listening to music they love. Practice will help you fully appreciate music, and the following is a list of tips for developing your new music listening skills.
Choose the listening environment carefully
Music will generally sound more pleasant in a quiet room with no echo. Some people like to use earphones or direct connection to the sound processor, while others prefer using speakers. Test your options and use good quality sound equipment.
Choose your music carefully
Music that was familiar to you before your hearing loss can be easier to enjoy.
Start with music that features fewer instruments, such as solos or small ensembles, rather than music played by large bands or orchestras. Songs that repeat the same musical patterns or words can be easier to pick up. Some recipients report that children’s music can be good listening practice for adults too!
Be strategic and realistic about listening
Listening practice should be broken up into short, but frequent sessions. This can be much more effective than one or two long sessions. Don’t expect things to sound perfect immediately. Many people report that music sounds better the more they listen to it.
Aim for good sound quality
Keep the volume at a moderate level. Some people find that digital music formats are easier to understand e.g. CDs, MP3s or digital music players.
Use visual input to assist your ears and brain
Use visual clues to help make sense of the music such as watching a singer’s lips or the rhythmic action of the piano player’s fingers, to help make sense of the music. Read along with the lyrics. If you don’t have them, you can often look them up on the internet.
Broaden your music listening goals
Remember that music is more than just notes – it’s also a social activity that brings people together. Why not plan and prepare a music event to enjoy with others? If you’re attending a musical event and you become overwhelmed, think about taking a silence break. Turn your processor down or off, or walk outside until you’re ready to continue listening. Be proactive about your listening environment. For example, when making a reservation at a restaurant, ask to be seated away from loud speakers so that any background music won’t make conversation difficult. For more information on listening to music, please contact your hearing professional.
What should I take with me?
When you travel, make a plan in case you need assistance with your sound processor or MAP. If you have a back-up sound processor, make sure you take it with you, and that it has been programmed with your latest MAP. Also remember to take a suitable AC adapter for your battery or remote assistant recharger, and take basic spare parts with you. Take a copy of your most recent MAP (a print out from your Audiologist will be sufficient). Check the Find a clinic function before you leave, so you can identify clinics along your travel path in case you need urgent assistance. To cover yourself against the loss or accidental damage of your sound processor, there are options like insurance or service contracts in some countries. Please contact your local Cochlear office or distributor for more information. And finally take your Patient Identification Card that’s provided in your product documentation. This card is available in multiple languages.
Will anything happen to my sound processor when I walk through airport security?
Not usually, and you should leave your processor on in case the security guard needs to speak to you. If your processor is set on the telecoil “T” setting, you may hear some buzzing, which is just harmless electromagnetic interference. You may prefer to turn your child’s processor off before walking through airport security, so they are not alarmed by any buzzing they may hear.
What should I do with my spare sound processor when I fly?
Switch your spare processor off, keep it inside a carry-on bag and place the bag onto the conveyer belt at airport security. Never place your processor directly onto a conveyer belt, as static electricity may build up on its surface and corrupt the MAP. The x-ray machine should not affect your MAP when the processor is turned off.
Note: A low-level x-ray is used to screen carry-on luggage. The x-ray will not harm your processor or the MAP. Never put your spare processor into checked baggage as this could expose it to damaging x-rays.
If the metal detector alarm goes off, what should I do?
If the alarm goes off for no other apparent reason, don’t worry if security uses a handheld wand to screen you. The wand will not harm your cochlear implant, but it will beep when it passes over your sound processor. Show security your Patient Identification Card, and explain that you have an implanted medical device for hearing. Tell them that the sound processor is a hearing instrument that you must wear with your implanted medical device.
Should I tell anyone on board the plane about my cochlear implant or my hearing loss?
Your processor is considered to be a medical portable electronic device, so you should notify airline personnel that you are using a cochlear implant system. Then they can alert you to safety measures which may include the need to switch your processor off.
Will my implant transmit signals that can interfere with the plane's navigational instruments?
Your implant can not interfere with the plane’s navigation or communication systems. Although your implant transmits radio frequency (RF) signals, they are very short range and would be limited to a distance of less than five feet from the external coil.
Like other electronic devices, should I turn off my sound processor during take off and landing?
You may be required to switch off your sound processor so check with your cabin attendant. If you have a remote control for your processor, this should be switched off.
How can I listen to the in-flight music or watch a movie?
There are many ways to access a plane’s audio system. One option is the TV HiFi Cable. This connects directly to your sound processor and has surge protection. (See your processor’s user manual for information about connecting the TV HiFi Cable to your processor.)
Please contact your airline to ask about connecting to their entertainment system, as you may need to purchase an adapter from an electronics supplier if their system uses a 2 or 3 prong socket. Before travelling, speak to your clinician about the various options for microphone mixing to guarantee the best sound quality for your personal listening requirements.
What if I'm moving to a different location to live?
If you’re moving, make sure you put Cochlear on your list of companies to inform of your new address.
We need your current details in case we need to contact you. It’s important to register in your new location (you can do this by finding a relevant clinic near you, especially if you move interstate or internationally, so that we can continue to support you with service and repairs.
For the first few months after your Cochlear system has been switched on, you’ll be busy listening and interpreting a world of new sounds around you. When you’re ready to start, there are steps you can take to improve your ability to use the phone.
For more advice on making your phone use more successful, contact your hearing professional
Will I be able to use the phone?
Whilst some recipients enjoy immediate success on the phone, it takes time and practice for others.
How can I get the best results from my phone use?
There are several ways to use your speech processor that will help you communicate better on the telephone:
- Use the everyday (or microphone) setting.
- Use a telephone adapter.
- Use the telecoil (a program specifically for use with the telephone or in environments that have telecoil facilities).
- Use mobile phone and audio accessories.
- Use the telephone on the everyday setting.
This method works with all Cochlear ear level and body worn speech processors. Here’s how to use the everyday (microphone) setting:
- The microphone sits at the top of your ear, near the earhook, capturing the speech sounds from the telephone earpiece.
- Your telephone earpiece should be in line with the microphone of the processor.
- You may need to move the telephone earpiece slightly until you find the strongest signal.
- Use the telephone with a telephone adapter.
- Telephone adapters directly connect ESPrit™ 3G and SPrint™ speech processors to the telephone. They work with corded telephones that have a keypad on their base.
Use the telephone on the telecoil setting
Telecoils send a signal directly to your processor without interference from background noise. To use this setting, the telecoil function must be activated on the speech processor and can only be used with a compatible telephone that has a telecoil facility.
How to use the telecoil function:
- Position the handset slightly lower on your ear and further back than the position suggested for the everyday setting. This position is also appropriate if you are using a mixed telecoil and microphone setting.
- Ensure that the handset is not held too high, too far back behind your ear or placed directly over your ear as the signal won’t be optimal.
The following Cochlear speech processors have telecoil capability:
- Nucleus 5 Sound Processor - has patented automatic telecoil detection (which can be enabled by your audiologist), where the processor automatically detects the telecoil signal and activates the telecoil.
- Freedom and ESPrit 3G speech processors - access the telecoil via your speech processor controls or a program set by your audiologist.
- SPrint - A telecoil adapter can be purchased separately from Cochlear to enable telecoil capabilities with these devices.
The Nucleus 5, Freedom™ and ESPrit™3G speech processors have the capacity to mix the telecoil and microphone input so they can be heard at the same time. You should discuss the telecoil function with your audiologist or clinician.
Use other mobile phone and audio accessories
There are a range of accessories that you can use with the phone. The following products are available through Cochlear and have proven popular with many recipients. We recommend trying them for yourself as every ear hears differently:
- NoiZfree® Music & Mobile - a special hands-free accessory that plugs into your mobile phone for hands-free conversation, improved speech clarity and reduced distortion and background noise. Can also be connected to iPods and walkmans. This is a single ear hook not compatible with Nokia mobile phones. Order number Z61135.
- NoiZfree® Beetle - this Bluetooth headset interfaces with your mobile phone, transmitting speech directly to your speech processor. It virtually eliminates the interference buzz that is sometimes experienced when using a speech processor with a mobile phone. Order number Z61261.
- NoiZfree® Nokia Monaural Telecoil Induction Earhook – a Mobile Induction Earhook compatible with Nokia mobile phones only. Order number Z61136.
For more information please contact your local Cochlear office or distributor.
What should I look for when choosing a phone?
All recipients have a personal preference, and what works for one may not necessarily work for another. If possible, try different models before making a selection.
Some features you might want to look for when purchasing a new phone include:
- volume control
- caller ID
- an integrated answering machine
- a high quality speaker phone.
When purchasing a cordless phone:
- Look for an analog cordless phone as they tend to provide the best sound quality and telecoil compatibility.
- Choose extended-range analog cordless phones, such as 2.4 GHz phones, as they usually offer a clearer signal than those in the 900 MHz range.
- Avoid purchasing cordless phones labelled ‘digital’ or ‘digital spread spectrum’, especially if you plan to use a telecoil with the phone.
When purchasing a corded phone:
Look for the same features as listed in cordless phones. If you are using a telephone adapter be sure to select a corded phone with the keypad in the base of the phone, rather than in the handset. If a store brand telephone isn’t adequate for your needs, there are also some specialty phones that may be more suitable.
When purchasing a mobile phone, we advise you to visit a retail store and try out different phones. If you plan to use a telecoil with your mobile phone, make sure to test its compatibility too.
How can I practise my phone skills?
Practising auditory only skills seems to help most recipients. Your hearing professional can provide the best techniques for your situation. Here are some techniques they might suggest:
- Repeat sentence and word lists with family or friends.
- Have someone read you a sentence or word, and then repeat it back to them.
- Practise taking messages from other family members.
- Start off with familiar names, phone numbers and addresses, or favourite foods, colours and activities.
- Move onto more detailed messages once you’ve built up your confidence.
- Read along with audio books and recordings. This gives you an opportunity to listen to something over and over, as well as practice reading along. You’ll find that libraries are usually a good place to source audio books.
- Listen to phone service messages. Try listening to recorded messages on the phone, such as a weather or time service. These services are often free.
- Join specialised rehabilitation programs: skill-building programs like Sound and Way Beyond™ can help you practice and develop your ability to use the phone.
Please seek advice from your health professional about treatments for hearing loss. Outcomes may vary, and your health professional will advise you about the factors which could affect your outcome. Always read the instructions for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information.