There are only three manufacturers of cochlear implants worldwide. At my assessment centre, I was given the choice between two : Advanced Bionics and Cochlear. Although Cochlear were the first company to pioneer CI technology and have recently made vast improvements to the aesthetics of their latest processor, they have not updated their software in a DECADE. Advanced Bionics on the other hand, have been an industry leader in CI technology for sixteen years, ever since they came onto the market.
I have to admit that I was initially tempted by the sleek, lightweight processor offered by Cochlear (it looks like a descendant of the iPod!). But after weeks of thinking, reading and researching I have eventually decided to opt for the larger, less attractive AB Harmony HiResolution Bionic Ear System.
The reason for this is simple - how the sound processor looks will undoubtedly change over time. (Cochlear are AB's main competitor, so they have no choice but to challenge their aesthetics). What matters most is the technology on the inside and what it is capable of allowing me to hear. At the end of the day, how well I can hear with a device is far more important than how good I look wearing it. (image below - colours are changeable!)
Here are just a few of the things that swayed me towards Advanced Bionics:
The actual implant (internal component) is capable of so much more than the external processor. The current sound processor (Harmony) only utilizes 25% of the implant's full potential, leaving room for future technological improvements which are being made all the time. AB has a commitment to innovations in hearing science, proven by the fact that they are the manufacturers of the most technologically advanced CI system in the world.
AB's Harmony processor captures the widest range of sounds (from soft to loud) of any CI system. Where other systems (Cochlear) have an Input Dynamic Range as narrow as 30dB, Harmony is able to capture a window of sound up to 80dB wide.
Built-in AutoSound automatically adapts to the changing environment, just like a normal hearing ear. HiResolution technology offers five times more resolution than any other CI system. Just like with a digital camera, the higher the resolution, the more complete the (sound) picture.
Both of these things make for a fast stimulation rate, meaning that pitch and timing of sound can be delivered with more accuracy. This is not only beneficial for speech perception, but also essential for music enjoyment - something which is quite important to me. (Unfortunately music is often a disappointment for CI users, a topic I will discuss further in another post).
If any of us needed any more convincing, check out the following results of an independent study (click to enlarge):
I can't tell you how relieved I am to have finally made this life changing decision!