Cochlear Implant & Cell Phones

Cochlear Implant Introduction

The Cochlear Implant

This is what the external cochlear implant looks like.  Well, this is one of many kinds.  I specifically picked this one because it's the kind I have; the Auria.  It also comes in various colors and decorations.
This is what the external cochlear implant looks like. Well, this is one of many kinds. I specifically picked this one because it's the kind I have; the Auria. It also comes in various colors and decorations.
Now, this is how the external and the internal products look.  You see where the external magnet is.  Under that is the skin that covers an embedded metal, attached to a wire that goes into the cochlea.
Now, this is how the external and the internal products look. You see where the external magnet is. Under that is the skin that covers an embedded metal, attached to a wire that goes into the cochlea.
This is me from a cell phone picture.  There is the silver Auria.  Another useful fact is that this is a BTE (behind-the-ear) product, so named for very obvious reasons.
This is me from a cell phone picture. There is the silver Auria. Another useful fact is that this is a BTE (behind-the-ear) product, so named for very obvious reasons.

Big Deal in Assistive Hearing Technology

Yep, you read it right. Cochlear implant and cell phones! I'm sure most of you that have never heard of this are wondering what cochlear implant is. That, and what cell phones have to do with it.

First, assuming you have NEVER heard of a cochlear implant, there is a technical, general terminology for that kind of device; 'assistive hearing technology' or 'assistive listening technology'. Hearing aids fall into this category, as well. Basically, cochlear implant is one of the many inventions specifically targeted for hearing technology.

The big difference between the hearing aid and the cochlear implant is important, though. Hearing aids simply amplify what hearing you *do* have. Cochlear implant actually involves a surgery to implant a little device into the cochlea to electrically stimulate it. This causes ability to hear more sounds than you ever did before. Not just amplified, but increasing levels of decibels and tones closer to what regular folks can hear.

Cochlear implant isn't simply an assistive technology for the deaf and the hard of hearing. It actually replaces what the deaf and the hard of hearing don't have and brings the amplified, clarified, normal hearing to those who can't hear.

Here is an analogy to consider on my last point.  Cochlear implant *is* a replacement or an addition for what one has lost or never had.  For example, think about the corrective lenses.  Corrective lenses augments existing vision.  Cochlear implants, however, does not augment the hearing, it totally replaces it.

However, there are some (or a lot) of us who still need other assistive devices to go with our newly found hearing. Some of us may never reach the level of hearing most regular folks have.

That brings me to....

A good look at the LG Scoop.  They have more varied color than simply citrus and baby blue.
A good look at the LG Scoop. They have more varied color than simply citrus and baby blue.
Here's Sunshine again with the LG Scoop cell phone.  Note I was tinkering with it as I talked on the phone.  Yes, this is how I talk on the phone!
Here's Sunshine again with the LG Scoop cell phone. Note I was tinkering with it as I talked on the phone. Yes, this is how I talk on the phone!
Auxiliary Audio Earhook - very effective accessory to go with a cell phone to improve communication. Image found on Bionicear Product Guide webpage.
Auxiliary Audio Earhook - very effective accessory to go with a cell phone to improve communication. Image found on Bionicear Product Guide webpage.

Cell Phones

..the cell phones. Remember that there are radio frequency interference between the phone and the cochlear implant. What happens is that the transmitter and radio frequency collides, thus causing a call to be lost. The buzzing, on the other hand, really happens with digital cordless phones. This is also a valid situation.

"The Buzz"

What I didn't really realize when picking my cell phone was that there would be disturbances where the call would get lost when I placed the phone near my cochlear implant. I probably should have thought of this since I had worse problems with the house phone. The home cordless phones typically are digital and over 5.8 GHz which does produce interference between 'my Ear' and the phone. The Bionicear website notes it should occasionally cause interferences, but not much. In my case, all I hear are the buzzing whereas everyone else hears the voice on the other end.


Now, many hearing impaired and deaf people pick products that have the best texting capabilities, with services that includes many minutes or unlimited texting plan in their area. I certainly did when I picked the LG Scoop with Alltel. I didn't really plan to use it for calling as much, but I also know I have to train my ear to listen on the phones.

Regardless of one simple incompatibility (the interference if it gets too close to my ear), I love my LG Scoop. It slides open and the QWERTY keyboard is easy to use for my fingers. It's incredibly easy to use and has amazing accessories for it. It comes in various colors and I absolutely adore the style. The weight is perfect; it's not featherlight and it's not heavy. It's just slightly dense since it's all compact. It has an auxiliary port for the headphone which can be used for cochlear implant auxiliary audio earhook accessory. This hooks up to the processor so I can hear the phone and nothing else. This is one solution.

Another one that I have discovered, as you will see in a photo here, is holding the ear piece further away from 'my Ear'. The mouthpiece is still near my mouth. I also turn the speakerphone on and the volume at the highest so I can hear from that bit of distance. I have also taken to setting it on the table while I'm talking; I can still hear clearly from this distance.

That's another great thing about this phone. The sound quality is fantastic for my level of hearing. I can honestly train my ear well with this phone and learn to make out words the way hearing people can. I have always avoided the phone up until I got the LG Scoop.

The Blackberry Pearl directly from the blackberry.com site.  This one is worth checking out.  It fits the criteria of what to get for cochlear implant users.
The Blackberry Pearl directly from the blackberry.com site. This one is worth checking out. It fits the criteria of what to get for cochlear implant users.

Cell Phone Compatibilities

Things to Consider

There are many things to consider when it comes to cell phones, particularly sound quality and texting capabilities. It becomes even more important to find something that is incredibly compatible with the cochlear implant and the person's unique needs.

So, there it is. A concise list of things to consider.

  1. High-quality sound. You would want something that helps you to hear better with the cochlear implant or any assistant listening technology.
  2. Bluetooth technology. Cochlear implant products have many accessories that work with bluetooth technology.
  3. Texting capabilities and services. This one is fairly obvious. It's really useful to have a good service like this for any person that enjoys texting over phone calls, particularly for the hearing impaired and cochlear implant users.
  4. Telecoil compatibility. I would ask the sales representative or seller of the cell phones about the compatibility with telecoils that helps reduce interferences. (Cochlear Implant industry provides telecoils for the products).
  5. Flip-flop/Clamshell designs are actually better at reducing frequency than slider phones, but there are a few exceptions ( like my LG Scoop ;) ).
  6. Lower antennas. Cochlearamericas.com recommend that the cochlear implant users find a phone that lets you point the antenna away from the ear to reduce frequency.
  7. Auxiliary port (headset port). Most cell phones have this, but I'd check anyway. There are many different styles of ports so you can find one that is compatible. I'd also check by using the auxiliary audio earhook or other implant products that can hook into the auxiliary port.

The first three are very obvious for just about anyone rather than just cochlear implant users. I think those are the main things most people look for, but what's interesting is that they really take that for granted. A lot of hearing impaired people absolutely rely on texting technology because it's fast, communication can occur at anytime and anyplace, with as many people as possible - without having to get incredibly confused and saying "what?!" a lot in the process. Just a thought to consider!


Recommendations

With this in mind, I have a few recommendations. I personally prefer LG Scoop, obviously, and in the future I want something similar to that. I would most likely go with LG Rumor or any other compact sliding phone.

However, for texting, sound, bluetooth, e-mails, flip-flop design, and auxiliary ports, I would pick the Blackberry series. There is a Blackberry that is a flip-flop design called the Blackberry Pearl Flip which is a Smartphone. It has practical features for the cochlear implant user, plus a fantastic organizer for a person living a hectic life.

I would test these things out before purchasing. The first person or company I would ask is the cochlear implant provider the user is considering or already has the product from. Always ask a retail salesperson to allow you to test to see if it works well with any assistive hearing technology you have. Also question them on the following things:

  • Telecoil compatibilities
  • Audio jacks
  • Bluetooth compatibilities
  • Radio frequency disturbances


After all is said and done...

I really, really intended for this one to be a rant of sorts.  In writing, I realized that it really isn't so bad.  There are plenty of upgrades, technology, assistance, and information out there to access that can ease a lot of the problems I had in mind when I started this.  So, this ended up being more targeted towards informing people about the cochlear implant *and* a resource for one aspect of communication resolution.

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Comments 12 comments

Sunny Robinson profile image

Sunny Robinson 7 years ago from Tennessee Author

I had help. ;) From you and Mark Knowles. I tried following the guidelines you guys set out in your hubs, but I'm still falling short on the video part and the news capsule. The video is a bit trickier since a lot of cochlear implant videos are personal ones, and the LG Scoop or Blackberry review videos aren't of good quality. The news capsule won't show up for me.

Thank you very much, BadCo. :) You made it possible for me!


Sunny Robinson profile image

Sunny Robinson 7 years ago from Tennessee Author

Aww, thank you! I will definitely work on persistance and patience.


Actionelly 7 years ago

Wow, I didn't realize all the accessories that you could use with the cochlear. That is awesome.The one that you have are you able to upgrade it easily for future advancements? And does your ear keep getting better with hearing for a long period of time. Like is there a stopping point where this is as good as you can get with it.. type thing?


Sunny Robinson profile image

Sunny Robinson 7 years ago from Tennessee Author

Yeaah. I didn't really either until a recent visit with my audiologist, so I looked into that and such. Yeah, my Auria can have upgrades like accessories and such. But as for upgrading to a new processor that actually warns you when a battery is going to die, that requires some money on my part. There can be a stopping point for a lot of products, need to upgrade to newer products that can be tuned as you go along.


Crissy Southner 7 years ago

That adapter looks like you'd have to take the microphone off your BTE and replace it before attaching it to your phone and making a call. Is that the case? If so, if it too much of a pain in comparison to simply texting or is it similar to a hearing person connecting ear buds before driving in the car.

Does insurance provide thia adapter? is it expensive?

I must say I am hard-of-hearing and only aided but I certainly made sure to check volume of cells before purchasing. I wish cell sales people were more aware of our plight. I quickly found out that if I can't hear and the volume won't go up anymore, just turn on speaker. There will be a walkie-talkie like delay but I can hear better.

Good hud, very professional. I especially like your personal photos.


Sunny Robinson profile image

Sunny Robinson 7 years ago from Tennessee Author

That's one of the ways, yes.  The adapter my audiologist recommended for me was the kind that can hook up to the bottom where the battery goes.  Another way is getting a microphone that has a jack ontop so you can just plug it in without having to change around microphones.

The insurance provides all sorts of adapters. There are quite a few now that I do have to co-pay on which isn't even much at all. Since turning 21, I've had to pay close attention to *what* I can get with my insurance and what I can't. Some things you simply have to check with the audiologist, who will contact your cochlear implant provider and your insurance.

Yeah, salespeople aren't normally aware unless they have had some experience dealing with clients that are deaf or hard of hearing.  That's why I routinely recommend first talking to the manufacturers and sponsors of the cochlear implant company you're a client of.

What you said about the speakerphone is exactly what I do. I turn on the speaker phone and hold it a bit away from my ear or place the phone down on the table and talk like I'm talking face to face.

By the way, I wouldn't say "only aided". If it helps you hear, it helps you! I'm glad this hub was helpful to you.

Thank you! :D

 


MsPenny 7 years ago

A very good article, congradulations. Just awsome information. So glad to have you here.


x_stacy 7 years ago

Hi Sunny, I have a very good experience with my Palm Treo 500 GSM (I live in the Netherlands). It has a keyboard, it has loud and very clear sound and it gives no buzzing sound. The only drawback is that it is a quite old model and probably won't be around much longer. I'm trying newer phones but I haven't found one yet that is as good. If I do I'll let you know. Grtz - X


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

This is so usuful, THANK YOU! :-)

Have there been any new improvments/develpements since you had yours installed? Any ideas about costs to have it doene today?


electricsky profile image

electricsky 5 years ago from North Georgia

Thanks for your article.


totallcowboy 5 years ago

I had just gotten a cochlear implant done on March 2nd, 2011. I was activated 12 days later and am learning to hear again. Thanks for the hubs on cochlear implants


Anthony Herring 5 years ago

Great explanation. Hearing Impairment is sometimes a scary experience as quite a few of Americans experience some level of hearing loss every year. Thanks for taking the time to clarify this for us.

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