I decided to do a little spring cleaning to my inbox and I noticed that my sent folder was overflowing with emails answering why I picked Advanced Bionics for my cochlear implant. It seems that after a 100 or so emails, I have unknowingly created this wonderful base for this blog. :)
There are several reasons I chose AB. I wanted to be able to hear better in noise. I wanted to be able to use the phone like a normal person. I wanted to be able to listen to music with ear buds that otherwise proved completely useless to me when I had a hearing aid – the ear was already full enough :) I wanted to be able to transition through different sound environments without fiddling around with the program. I wanted rechargeable batteries because they are safer for the environment and economically friendlier. I wanted the support that was needed that goes along with learning how to hear with a cochlear implant and because of Hearing Journey, I got answers the second I post a question. I wanted to be able to access the latest MRI technology with minimal surgery. I wanted promises of future technology designed to emulate better hearing without further surgery. I wanted total reliability. I wanted the implant to withstand sweating when I work out since I was forever killing my hearing aids. I wanted to push the envelope of hearing. When it came down to it – AB was the only company that could give me that.
1. T-Mic Microphone
The T-Mic ear hook is only available with Advanced Bionics cochlear implant system. This is not to be confused with the T-Coil, an option that can be turned on by your audiologist on your Harmony Processor. It uses the natural shape of the ear to emulate natural hearing. It helps to provide clarity that is needed for speech and is absolutely fantastic in noise because you can rotate your ears to what you want to focus on like a normal hearing person. It comes in two sizes, standard for big ears like mine and pediatric size for itty bitty ears.
Being a long term hearing aid wearer, I was familiar how directional microphones (catches the sound in front of you) and omni-directional microphones (catches the background sound) works but this design intrigued me. With the T-Mic earhook, I can just put the telephone up to my ear without fiddling with anything and the background noise immediately fades away making the your voice or the person on the other end of the phone the dominant sound . When you or the person stops talking, the background noise will become noticeable. It is the same phenomena when I wear a Bluetooth headset and stick IPOD ear buds in my ear. These are things I never thought would be possible with a hearing aid.
2. Auto Sound
The phenomenon that I was just talking about is called Auto Sound which automatically adjusts for the environment that you are in. I shall spare you the technicalities of it all. It allows you to hear whispers to shouts without flipping a switch. You don't have to fiddle around with programs. This is a cut and paste from a bilateral AB user that lives with a bilateral Freedom user that explains how useful it is to have valuable Auto Sound is.
My resident (bilateral) Freedom user having to switch for the phones, having to switch for restaurants, having to switch back for normal conversations. When we listen to music, he switches and switches programs trying to find something that sounds ok. He gets frustrated with it. If he forgets to switch back, he can spend the morning not hearing well in normal situations, with his voice louder than necessary. That is my tip off that he forgot to switch back...so I will have him check and sure enough, he forgot to switch back from whatever program he was using, back to his "everyday" program.
I would be highly agitated if I had to keep flipping programs to go from my house, to my car, to work. With Auto Sound, I hardly ever have to switch.
3. Familiarity of Hearing Aid Style
Advanced Bionics has the options of three program slots and it mimicked the style of what I was used to with my HA. Right after you get activated, you tend to play a lot with different programs options that AB has to see what suits you best but now I settled down with just one program from everything: But just for sake of having options, I have a normal everyday program, a noise/telephone program that I hardly ever use unless I am in a noisy environment and music. I find it redundant to have more than three program options because like myself, most of the CI users after they learn how to hear with the CI, you might find yourself just sticking to one. If you go to a CI clinic that gives you two processors, a primary and a back up, you can utilize both of them to play around with different settings until your brain figures out which one it likes best.
4. Widest Window of Sound (IDR)
Since a normal person ear cannot process any sound louder than 120dB and it will hurt a hearing person to hear anything louder than 120dB which results them sticking their fingers in their ears to dampen the noise. AB has its own ceiling as well. It is called IDR which stands for Input Dynamic Range that can be adjusted up to 80dB. Other companies are at 45dB. It just means that ceiling on the CI or window of sound can process up to 80dB and then Auto Sound kicks in and automatically dampens the sound to make it comfortable for us to tolerate the loud noise.
If you can picture a window shut, which means very little sound is coming through because the window absorbs most of the sound. If you open the window a little bit, you will begin to hear some noise such as leaves blowing around, cars passing or a faint impression of someone hammering. I call this a low IDR. If you open the window up halfway, you are inviting even more noise. You might get the leaves blowing, cars passing and a more distinct impression of the person hammering but you might hear the birds singing as well. If you open it up all the way, you might as well be standing outside. I like to it call it adjustable noise control. :) With a wide IDR, I can go to a concert and hear the concert as it was meant to be heard. With a narrow IDR, it gets rid of unimportant noise or what I call "white noise" and brings a sense of perceptible clarity.
5. Rechargeable Batteries
I am extremely environmentally friendly. I recycle. I drive a hybrid which resembles a hardboiled egg but you just can't beat it the 55 mpg that I get. So, rechargeable batteries are an easy "green" option. Advanced Bionics has two sizes of rechargeable batteries, extended and slim. Extended is what I have which I get an average of 24 hours out of, you figure every two days I'm slipping a new one in. I got four batteries with my processor when I was activated and I lost one (blushing) but three batteries last me the whole week. It is not only environmentally friendly, it is economically friendly as well. There are no trips to the store to buy batteries which means more money in your pocket. You might want to buy a new set of batteries every 2-3 years but if you have a durable medical rider on your insurance policy, that means very little out of pocket. AB provides a little wallet that you can attach to your key ring to carry your batteries with you.
6. HiResolution Fidelity 120 Sound Processing Option
The latest software development is the HiRes speech strategy option with Fidelity 120 options. This is an option that can help you in noisy conditions, appreciate music and on the telephone. The only way I can describe it is if I compare it to a camera. A hearing aid is a Polaroid and HiRes with Fidelity 120, it is a 4MP Camera. I can hear in noise much more easily than I could ever hear with a hearing aid. Since it was designed with music in mind, it has been a joy to actually enjoy music especially now that I am bilateral.
It uses current steering technology to increase spectral resolution from as few as 12 to 22 spectral bands to as many as 120 spectral bands. Advanced Bionics is the only company that can achieve this type of current steering technology because it has a power source each electrode. Other companies that have only one power source for all of their electrodes claim that they can steer electrodes but they have no speech strategy devised for it which makes it totally useless, doesn't it?
7. Independently Controlled Currents or Electrodes
Since I have a technical background, I have always been interested in how components function and it played a large part of my research. All the components may look similar in programming, chip size and material but the old saying, never judge a book by its cover. The HiRes 90k implant has the 16 independent computer controlled current sources where other companies have one power source. It is like if you set up X number of speakers and plug them into one outlet, you will not get the same performance if you plug in each one of those speakers to its own power supply. With independently controlled current sources, the ability for tons of future software development since it can control each electrode.
8. Internal Chip Memory
The fact that the internal chip memory is only operating at 25% capacity means that there are tons of room for development.
9. Total Reliability of Internal and External Report
Advanced Bionics has been able to issue a total reliability report. For the implant, it is at 99.5 on June 2008 and for the Harmony processor, the return rate is less than 1%. I do want to point out that you want to be worried about the reliability of both the implant and the processor because if one stops functioning, you can't hear - point blank. The other companies do not offer a reliability report on their processors because it is absolutely deplorable. I always hearing about parts breaking down and being replaced. I absolutely hated it when I was left in the dark when my hearing aid broke down and believe me, I have done my fair share of killing them. I felt so disconnected from the world as I knew it. I have yet to have my processor replaced (knock on wood) but if I ever did, I would have it within 48 hours with the Processor Direct Program.
In 2004, Advanced Bionics was under another company called Boston Scientific when they had agreements with two Vendors to supply a part for the internal component. They noticed that the rate with Vendor B component was prone to moisture issues was 1% lower than the Vendor A component. AB issued a recall on their own accord recalling the devices due to the potential presence of moisture in the internal circuitry, which can cause the device to stop functioning. Not all of the Vendor B implants had this problem. Advanced Bionics has since resolved this issue by only using parts supplied by Vendor A. As a result, their total reliability has gone way up.
10. Processor Direct Program
Processor Direct Program minimizes the time waiting if you should ever need your sound processor replaced. Just call your audiologist and they will contact AB via our secure, automated website and upload your sound processor’s unique program file. AB technicians will load your program into a replacement sound processor and ship it directly to you. Because you receive a fully functional processor preloaded with your customized program, there’s no need to schedule a programming visit. That means more time for yourself and more money in your pocket.
Processor Direct is completely safe, so there’s no risk of hearing with the wrong program. AB’s secure website makes it impossible for your audiologist to upload the wrong program file, and for additional security, AB’s patented IntelliLink™ feature will not allow a processor loaded with the wrong program to work with your implant. You enjoy peace of mind knowing you have the correct programs—developed specifically for you. An office visit to program a replacement sound processor might not be covered by insurance companies, which mean you may have to pay the cost. With Processor Direct, no programming office visit is required and that means no unexpected costs.
Advanced Bionics has the largest online community forum – Hearing Journey with over 4,500 users. It consists of CI candidates, recipients and parents of children recently diagnosed with hearing loss, parents of children that have cochlear implant and audiologists. It is a huge wealth of information as everyone rallies around for support, offers advice, shares tips and tricks about surgery or learning how to hear with a cochlear implant. There is a CI chat held every Thursday night from 8pm EST til the cows come home, that you can come and talk to other cochlear implant recipients, candidates, parents and audiologists. Just log in to Hearing Journey and click on the chat options and you are in!
Advanced Bionic has taken it one step further to provide one-on-one support. They have just launched a new site for cochlear recipients and candidates from across the country through its new "Connect to Mentor" Web site. The new site, part of the BEA (Bionic Ear Association) Mentor Program, that I and several other bloggers are a part of, allows cochlear implant candidates to contact volunteer "mentors" and communicate directly with hearing professionals. You see my smiling face on this site as well. :)
Candidates can use the Connect to Mentor website to search for mentors who include parents of implanted children, relatives of cochlear recipients and adult recipients. Each mentor has a profile complete with a personal photo and facts such as favorite sound, interests (i.e., cell phone user, traveler, musician), hometown, age they were implanted, severity of hearing loss and how they can help cochlear implant candidates. Then, candidates can choose to "start a conversation" with the mentor directly from their profile.