Thursday, September 28, 2006

Choosing a Cochlear Implant

Aiden will be having his implant surgery at CHEO (the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario) in Ottawa, Ontario Canada. At CHEO, implant candidates are given the option of choosing between two Cochlear Implant brands; Advanced Bionics and Cochlear Americas.

Let me start by saying this: we have talked to a lot of people during the process of deciding which brand of Cochlear Implant to choose for Aiden. And, everyone that we have spoken to (including: the surgeron, Audiologists, ENTs, AV Therapists, an executive at one of the Implant companies and parents of other CI children) have all said the same thing - we can't make a bad decision. With either Implant, Aiden will learn to speak, listen and live well in a hearing world equally well (although each functions quite differently). If, at any time in this decision making process, someone who knew what they were talking about told us that one Implant would provide "better" hearing for Aiden, our decision would have been easy. So, having said that, our choice is coming down to a decision based on the following advantages and disadvantages. (Note: this is in no means intended to be an "official" list, it's just what our opinions are, based on information available to us, currently.)

Advanced Bionics Advantages:
1. No earpiece with the Body Worn Processor model. Knowing Aiden and his irritation with wearing hearing aids - this is a big advantage for us.
2. Firefly lighted indicator for ear level visualizatoin that helps parents and teachers know the status of a child's processor (with BTE).
3. A convenient power option: full day of operation time, charge the battery while Aiden sleeps and don't worry about it all day. Quick and easy to change power cells. Users can go for years without re-ordering PowerCells. (Also, we know that there is a potential advantage with Advanced having an available "AA" battery option, but if you have forgotten to bring that with you, you have lost any advantage of being able to use store bought batteries in a pinch.)
4. Bionic Ear Association support network. There is a "matching program" that introduces you to another Bionic Ear user with similar circumstances, good technical help, personal contact assigned, newsletter, looks like good events.
5. We know someone in upper management with this company.
6. More durable processor?
7. Larger controls are easier for a child to operate, once they are old enough to understand how.
8. Very clear and large dials allow parents, at a glance, to see what the Processor's current settings are.
9. We have heard of a teaching program coming to Canada that I have been asked to keep under wraps, but this is an advantage in our minds.
10. We know a boy who is 12 and doing amazingly well with an Advanced Bionics Implant. We can't say that for Cochlear (although this doesn't make it not true, we just don't know anyone).

Advanced Bionics Disadvantages:
1. Not very attractive design for a young boy. Processor is huge (okay, relatively), and Aiden is very small. Looks like it has been designed for a "stylish" female senior (ie: big dials, platinum colour, scripty font, square design - can you tell that I'm a Creative Director?).
2. Because of the size and weight of the processor, we would have to use a backpack, and I don't really like that idea.
3. No lockable controls.
4. Dials can get dirty and sandy? We know there is a cover available, but one Advanced family we know never uses it.
5. This company had a recall - is reliability an issue?
6. I mentioned that the large easy to use dials might be an advantage, but they also may be a disadvantage in that Aiden loves to play with dials and buttons, and I think he would be forever playing with it and changing settings.

Cochlear Advantages:
1. Lightweight stylish processor. Great looking accessories for a youth market. Looks like "Aiden."
2. Customer service program seems really good. The brochures, information packages and website are very user friendly, and written in terms that are understandable and conversational. My thought is, if their promotional material is this easy to read (not true of Advanced Bionics we thought) than any other user or help manuals that they will supply us with should be equally user friendly. I like being able to understand the technology (even on the surface) of Aiden's Implant.
3. They invest over 15% of their annual revenue in researching better ways to restore hearing.
4. Water resistant (although Aiden won't be jumping through sprinklers with his accessories on, at least we won't panic if he's splashed in a boat or we're caught out in the rail)
5. Convenience of being able to buy batteries anywhere. So, if we forget batteries, or they run out, we're not stuck.
6. Carry case seems like a great protector - no sand and dirt in dials.
7. Long battery life - can go 4 days without changing batteries?
8. Use the phone with ease (and MP3 player, etc.)
9. Lockable controls to prevent accidental chyanges to settings - Aiden LOVES playing with buttons.
10. Claims they are the most reliable implant in the world
11. Claims to have "future-ready" electronics designed to handle a broad range of future upgrades and enhancements (does Advanced Bionics?)
12. MRI safe (is Advanced Bionics?)
13. Digital controls - I like that
14. LED display - I like that
15. Makes a sound when not on properly
16. Ric thinks that the extra "Ball Electrode" is a benefit, but I am not going to even pretend to understand this benefit ;>

Cochlear Disadvantages:
1. The earpiece, the earpiece, the earpiece. Do I have to say more? If Aiden won't wear the earpiece, then all of the other advantages don't mean a thing.
2. Batteries could get expensive - even with rechargables

Whew! So, after all that, what did we decide? Check out our entry entitled, "October 9, 2006 - One Week Before Surgery" to find out!


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