by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man wrote:
I had sudden hearing loss and need your help. If you had to have a cochlear implant today, which implant would you have, and where would you have it done?
Fortunately for me, I live close to one of the best cochlear implant surgeons, Dr. John Niparko at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. (It’s only about 50 miles away.) Therefore, that would be my first choice. Don’t get me wrong. There are good CI centers scattered around the country, but Dr. John is one of the top rated CI surgeons anywhere.
As for which brand to select, you have three choices—Cochlear Americas, Advanced Bionics or MedEl. All three are about equal—that is, you will hear about the same with any of them.
Be sure to check out the reliability and track record of each of the CI manufacturers. They are all different. Decide which seems best for you.
Also, since the CI manufacturers are always coming out with new features, and leapfrogging over each other, the CI I’d choose today may not be the same make or model I’d choose tomorrow. Therefore, when the time comes that you need to make your decision, look carefully at the features that are available for each make. Then consider which features are important to you for your own specific lifestyle and situation.
For example, if you will need MRIs in the future, you may want to choose the CI with the highest Tesla rating without having to have the internal magnet temporarily surgically removed before you can have an MRI.
Some CIs have much longer battery life than others, so this may be a consideration.
Also, if music is important to you, then you may want to choose the CI with the most electrodes (currently 120 “virtual” electrodes) and the best music strategies (maps).
Perhaps the appearance of the external parts is important to you, or the specific controls, or the accessories available, or the kind of maps provided. There are so many features—and only you know which of them are important to you.
You also want to check to see if the model you choose can be upgraded when new technology becomes available without having to have the implanted part taken out and replaced.
The above are some of the “physical” things to look for. However, these are relatively minor when compared to two major things you want to check out.
First, of course, is getting an experienced CI surgeon. Get one that has done many cochlear implants and has an excellent track record.
Besides having a good CI surgeon, the next most important thing is to have an audiologist that is experienced in the brand of CI you are getting. You want someone that can program the best maps for you, because this is what ultimately gives you your hearing back. At the same time, you want your CI audiologist to be located reasonably close to you since you will be going back for a good number of mappings in the coming months and years. You don’t want to have to fly across the country every time you need your map changed.
Sometimes some of the above decisions will already have been made for you. For example, certain doctors and implant centers only implant certain makes—so if you want a given doctor, you have to go with the makes he implants. Likewise, your CI audiologist may have expertise in just certain makes—so choose a make that they are expert at mapping.
This is just a sampling of some of the things I’d consider. As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider. All things being equal, go with the CI that comes out on top in your rating of each of the above factors as you see it.