I want to focus this post on choosing a device of your Cochlear Implant as I believe this is the hardest part of the whole process and one that will impact on you for the rest of your life. For those considering / in the process of getting an implant this post might be able to give you some helpful tips.
Most hospitals (in the UK) give you a choice of three CI providers – Advanced Bionics, Cochlear and Med-El. These companies all have at least one if not more devices to choose from. When you are accepted for a CI, the hospital advises you go away and research the three companies in their websites before choosing a device you feel will be the best fit for you – what is difficult about this is that each company will of course, sing their own praises and claim to have the best device on the market. My favourite is the phrase “world’s first…” which appears all over the three websites. This makes it hard for you to make an informed and impartial decision.
I found I really had to dig around the internet to get statistics on all three companies so that I could compare the devices and make my decision. As you can see from the pitcure below – I made a LOT of notes!
I’m not going to write everything that I found out here as I would not want to influence anyone’s decision in any way (or bore you all!) but what I will do is give a brief synopsis of each company and show you their devices, tell you what I personally chose and why and also what things you should focus your research on in order to make your choice.
Cochlear is the most well known of the three CI companies, established in 1981. The company is based in Sydney and have implanted approximately 250,000 people since 1982. Cochlear produces three implants for different medical conditions; Nucleus which is a CI, Hybrid which is an electro-acoustic system which combines a CI with an acoustic hearing aid and the Baha which is a bone anchored hearing aid.
Med-El is a private global technology company founded in 1990 and headquartered in Austria. The company develops and manufactures implantable hearing systems including CI’s, middle ear implants, bone conduction hearing implants, electric acoustic stimulation hearing implant systems and auditory brainstem implants. The company prides itself on their research and development and is continously investing in this.
Advanced Bionics was founded in 1993 and has been working with Phonak (the hearing aid brand) under the Sonava Group since 2009. This company is headquartered in America and is branded as a “global leader in the most advanced Cochlear Implant systems in the world”.
Points to consider:
When researching the device choices you should bear these points in mind;
Recalls; Occasionally there may be issues which prompt a manufacturer to halt production of a particular implant due to safety concerns, which could hinder your process or rehabilitation so it is important to check the manufacturers record.
Reliability; the companies reliability record for specific implants should be an important factor.
Upgradeability; Does the device choice have room for upgrades in the future – will the implant be compatibile with future devices?
Microphones; Some devices have multiple microphones which can focus sensitivity whereas some have only one which is positioned near the ear canal to stimulate more “natural” hearing – which is most important to you?
FDA Failure Database; CI’s are generally very reliable devices but occasionally it may be necessary to remove one and replace it due to a device failure or medical issue – it would be worth checking the companies record.
Speech Perception; This was an extremely important issue for me – patients speech perception scores with the different implants – obviously this is dependent on your medical history and rehabilitation but nevertheless it should be born in mind how well or not so well others have been able to percieve speech as words or sentences with the devices. This information isn’t easily available so you will need to dig!
Ultimately the devices are the same in that they serve the same purpose – to restore some sense of hearing to the patients. Most audiologists I met have told me that the devices are like for like and it is a preference based on look and feel that most patients rely on. No matter what device you chose, the audiologist will have the same amount of skill and knowledge to tell you about the device, accessories, rehabilitation etc, this does not change with the device you chose!
I pesonally chose the Med-El Opus 2. I had done A LOT of research and was torn between Advanced Bionics and Med-El. I considered AB simply because of their connection to Phonak. Having worn Phonak hearing aids most of my life; I felt this might be more of a natural transition for me. I was put off a bit by their recall history but was equally impressed with their record of producing new and advanced technology.
I considered Med-El because it seemed that their recall rate was much lower than that of the other two companies (from the research I did – this may not be entirely accurate) and their speech perception scores from previous patients just had the edge on the other two. I also liked that Med-El had a new processor Rondo which is the world’s first (favourite phrase!) all in one processor – although I didn’t choose this as my device, it gave me hope that in the future Med-El could advance on this and make it even better. An all in one processor would mean less visibility and as a woman this is important to me, as vain as it sounds!
I personally didn’t feel Cochlear was for me – even though they are the most established of the three having been around since the 80s. From my research it appeared that the technology Cochlear offered lagged slightly behind the other two and seems to be slightly restricted in what they can provide in the future due to the patents that AB and Med-El have on their current devices. But as I said before, these are my own personal opinions and I would advise anyone to do their own research before making a decision.
When I attended my device choice meeting in November, I was very much torn between the two but the hospital actually helped me in my choice as they had removed AB from the list of available implants because the latest processor had been recalled due to moisture – this confirmed my suspicions about the previous recalls and I happily chose Med-El’s Opus 2.
We did get to see the different types of devices, both the part that gets implanted and the processor, and to be perfectly honest there is little difference looks wise between the Nucleus and Opus 2.
So, if I haven’t stressed this enough; do your research and make sure you are making an informed and unbiased choice you are happy with – it is you who will have to live with it for the rest of your life after all!
If you would like to see more information on the devices from the 3 manufacturers website, have a look at;
http://www.cochlear.com – Cochlear
http://www.medel.com/uk – Med-El