This post is directed more towards those who are currently exploring their options and looking in to getting a CI but hopefully those curious about the process will enjoy the read as well.
One thing that most people don’t realize when starting down the road to Cochlear Implants is that most often, the candidate gets to choose which brand of implant they get. Why does this matter? Well, to start with, the implants are not universal; they are not cross compatible with different brands of processors. While each brand has very good reliability & they will all give the recipient access to sound and speech comprehension, they are surprisingly vastly different in their designs and features.
For some candidates, like me, the ability to choose my own processor was a blessing. I’m a gadget freak and tend to be techie by nature so being able to research the different brands to make an educated choice was right up my alley. For others though, this is a highly daunting and scary process with complicated and confusing information. Because the implant cannot be changed without surgery and the implants should, in most cases, last a lifetime or at least 20-30 years; it’s not a decision to be taken lightly and certainly warrants a bit of research. A great place to start is Cochlear Implant Help there’s a great comparison chart and lots of good information.
I will be the first to tell you that there is no wrong choice. This process is very similar with choosing a cell phone brand, or car brand. Every brand will get the job done and perform similarly, but each with their strengths and features. We choose our brand by the one that “calls” to us the most. It’s important to be happy with the choice you make, whatever that may be.
I chose Advanced Bionics for several reasons and I will break them down for you here. Because I don’t have experience with the other brands, I cannot elaborate on any of the others, but I do encourage you to research each brand so you can be comfortable with your choice.
As I mentioned, the implant you choose is with you for life. Processors (the part you wear on the outside) change and improve every couple of years so while it is a piece of the puzzle, I feel it bears less weight than the implant. This was where I centered my research focus. I wanted the best chance of hearing as close to “normal” as I could and wanted to be able to love music again.
When I compared the 3 brands, I learned that AB has the highest max stimulation rate (how fast the electrodes can stimulate the nerves), has the ability to fire multiple electrodes at the same time (each electrode has its own power source), has the fastest data transfer (how quickly it gets the info from the processor to the implant), the widest Input Dynamic Range (the spectrum of the softest to the loudest sounds that one can hear at any given time), and utilizes current steering which enables points in between electrodes to be stimulated in order to provide better pitch perception. This led me to believe that I would have the best chance of loving music again with AB (which has certainly proven true).
AB also has the most listening strategies available to really tailor the way the CI works for each individual, giving more opportunities to find that perfect sound for each person. Our ears are as unique as we are as individuals so what works well for me, may not work well for you. They definitely do not take a cookie cutter approach to hearing and really think outside the box for us.
The other factors that I looked for in my brand choice was the ability to connect to my phone and tablet and power choices. I knew I did NOT want to rely on disposable batteries. Aesthetics, while not a high priority on my list, still played a bit of a role in my choice. I do want my processors to look cool.
AB covered every one of those desires. With the Compilot, I can connect wirelessly to my iPhone, Kindle Fire, TV, laptop, computer, and anything with a headphone jack that I want to plug into like the assisted listening devices at theatres.
The Naida processors utilize rechargeable batteries – and they actually have several power options available. My 170 minis, which are small and lightweight, last me all day without issue. I just pop ’em on the charger every night and they’re ready to go in the morning. I have larger batteries too that will last about 26-27 hours, and even have an optional zinc air disposable adapter and a AAA PowerPak that can be used in situations where I can’t recharge easily (like camping or emergencies or a zombie apocalypse – have I mentioned that I don’t EVER want to be without my AB ears?). Oh – and they have the only truly waterproof processor (Neptune) and waterproof mic (AquaMic) plus a great, rugged waterproof case option for the Naida (AquaCase) so I can hear in the water!
Aesthetically, I think the Nadia’s are pretty slick! I couldn’t believe the color options that were available. It actually was tough to choose, but in the end I went with Petrol – it’s kind of a deep, navy/charcoal/black color. I found it to have a real depth to it that sucked me in. 😍 I also love the shape of the headpiece. I know, they’re all round, but the AB’s have a smooth, sleek contour that I found attractive.
Some other features that I love about the Naida: T-mic!! This feature is totally unique to AB and I’ve talked about it before, but it’s worth mentioning again. The T-mic positions a microphone right at the opening of the ear canal. Why does this matter? Well, have you ever wondered why the ear is shaped the way it is? It’s designed to capture, filter, and channel sound waves into the ear canal to facilitate hearing. This is called the Pinna effect. AB’s T-mic takes advantage of this natural filtering effect and improves listening in noisy settings without having to change programs. It also permits easy usage of telephone and headphones without need for streaming or alternative devices.
The Naida processors also have an on the processor volume and program button. This was important to me as I knew I didn’t want to carry a remote around all the time but also wanted the option to control my own programs & volume easily, wherever I may be.
Finally, I knew AB offered the best bimodal and bilateral features. At the time of my first implant, I didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to go bilateral, but I was still utilizing a HA in my other ear (even though it didn’t provide much benefit). I wanted the chance for the two ears to work TOGETHER. I was able to try out the Phonak Naida Link HA with my right CI and loved the features it offered. When my left ear went deaf shortly after, I was provided the opportunity to try their Phonak Naida CROS. Now that I’m bilateral, I’m truly experiencing just how well AB enables ears to work together – there is an option for EVERY hearing configuration. No other CI brand offers Binaural VoiceStream Technology – an instant connection between the two ears. It even provides the ability to send sound from one ear to the other in real time. I attribute my ability to perform in noise so well to this feature – the UltraZoom program is amazing.
I know this is probably coming across as one big sales pitch for Advanced Bionics, but that is not my intent. I simply wanted to walk you through the reasonings that helped me choose AB as my brand for life. As one person mentioned on the FB CI group, when you choose your brand, you are marrying it. Its a prudent move to be sure you want to spend the rest of your life with that brand.
It did help me to know people that had selected AB and to see how well they do with their implants. So my advice to you is get out there, talk to people with the different brands, ask to handle the processors, talk to the sales reps from each company, decide what features are important to you and which brands best deliver on those features, and then decide with confidence. After all, the choice is yours to make.