So now that we have a little more experience with Fiona’s new implant, I wanted to do a quick tour on how it all works.
Fiona is currently wearing the Advanced Bionics Neptune sound processor. It’s quite compact as you can see here:
The sound processor is “a miniature computer that converts sound picked up by the microphone into electrical signals that are used by (the) cochlear implant to enable hearing.” (straight from the manual).
You can mix and match various color covers to personalize the appearance.
The Neptune runs off a standard rechargeable AAA battery, although you’ll see further down this post that the “over the ear” processors use custom, smaller batteries.
Attached to the sound processor is the headpiece. Embedded inside the headpiece is a very small microphone, look for the tiny black dot in this picture:
The headpiece is also customizable with different cover colors as well. Fiona is sporting pink.
On the back side of the headpiece is a magnet. You can add and remove additional magnets to adjust the strength. We’ve also further McGuyvered Fiona’s by adding some toupee tape to help keep her from pulling it off. (No, not from my private stash…)
The head piece attaches to the processor on one side (connector plug) and the cochlear implant on the other, via a small magnet that was embedded inside Fiona’s head at her surgery. We have both standard headpieces and thicker waterproof variants. If she pulls off the headpiece, the processor starts beeping. Useful and maddening at the same time.
Here’s how it works: the sound picked up by the microphone in the headpiece transmits down the wire to the processor, is converted into an electrical signal, then transmitted back up the wire, across the gap from the magnets, into the implant and down into the auditory nerve inside the cochlea.
In a very real sense, its reproducing what the functioning cells inside the cochlea of a hearing child would otherwise do:
The Neptune processor has 3 different “programs” that are programmed by our (fantastic) audiologists to stimulate different frequencies at different levels. Fiona has already gone back once for her first reprogramming, and has several more to come. She’s currently on her 4th program. Think of this like easing yourself into the hearing world: you start with an empty room, then a quiet library, soon a restaurant and then someday a Rush concert. Neil Peart!!!
To switch programs, we attach a special device called the “Neptune Connect” to the processor to switch the mode, then detach again to keep the profile of the device small. Fortunately we don’t have to do this very often – maybe once every few days.
For her implant surgery, Advanced Bionics provided us with 2 processors: a primary and a spare.
We chose to start with the Neptune as it’s easier to manage with a small child, but our second processor is the “over the ear” Naida processor. The over ear processors are even smaller then the Neptune and are easier for older children and adults to manage, but are more challenging for certain infants who like to constantly constantly constantly pull things off their ears…
Still we have her Naida on deck, still in the packaging:
Yes that’s a remote control you see as well. We’ll get to live the parents dream and directly control how loud our child plays her music, mwuhahahaha!
Actually its kindof cool as these implants can connect straight into bluetooth and other wireless techs, i’m a little jealous. Maybe i should start getting some Advanced Bionics kickbacks from this free PR…
And of course last but not least, we’re the first kids on the block with a stuffed monkey with its own Cochlear Implant:
So Mom and Dad are learning besides Fiona, but she’s already acclimating quite well to the change. Kids are so resilient!