With three cochlear implant companies manufacturing reliable devices, flexibility exists among the available technology to make the "best" choice for each and every patient. We at UNC Healthcare work equally with all three cochlear implant devices and are equipped to service and program implant technology from all 3 companies; Cochlear Corporation, MED-EL Corporation, and Advanced Bionics Corporation.
The ultimate decision-making process includes the collaboration of the patient's desires as well as those of the implant team (physician, audiologist, family). The discussion process most often centers around the following key points:
- Device performance and integrity: All 3 implant manufacturers have a long-standing history of building and creating reliable speech processors that offer strong patient performance.
- Current Technological Advances: Manufacturers in a competitive market are always seeking to improve on existing implant technology so as to offer new options to the patient and better serve the "implant customer." With most advances, newer, sleeker, and more efficient processing units become available. The upgrade process is understood and supported by the companies and well as the insurance providers.
- Patient Preference: We encourage patients to obtain literature from all the implant manufacturers as well as visit the company websites online to gain more information about device technology, before engaging in the selection process. Visiting with other implant recipients can also provide helpful insight to a potential recipient.
- Ease of Use: Many patients suffer from other health conditions that may complicate the use of certain implant technology. Limited vision and dexterity problems are just a few of the issues that may need to be considered when choosing an appropriate implant system. Both behind the ear (BTE) style devices as well as body-worn controllers for speech processors are among the available options from which a patient can ultimately choose. Demo models of all cochlear implant devices are available in the clinic for patients to evaluate for overall fit and comfort. There are viable options for everyone.
- Abnormal Cochlear or External Ear Anatomy: Abnormal cochlear anatomy can be easily visualized and noted by the implant physician at the onset of the evaluation via the CT scan. The physician may have advice and valuable input about a specific "internal" receiver, which may work best with the patient's anatomy. In the end, this will likely influence the external wearing options for the patient. Similarly, some patients may have smaller external ears and be unable to support a behind the ear (ear level) speech processor, due to the weight and size of the device. Demo models of all cochlear implant devices are available in the clinic for patients to evaluate for overall fit and comfort.
- "Bells and Whistles:" The term "bells and whistles" typically applies to hearing aids; however, we also use this terminology to discuss the added features available on external cochlear implant processors. Such features include, directional microphones, T-coil compatibility, "splash-proof" status, FM compatibility, multiple program memories for various listening conditions, rechargeable battery options, and multiple wearing configurations. Please discuss all your personal needs with the audiologist so as to find best implant system for to meet the demands of your lifestyle.