August 9th, 2013 by Contributor | Tags: Cochlear Implant, Cochlear™, Nucleus® 6, Product Review | No Comments »
Written by Lesley Miller
A few months back, I had the privilege of participating in a Clinical Trial for the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor. I have bilateral Freedom™ (CI24RE) cochlear implants, but only my right ear was used/tested for the purposes of the study. First impressions of the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor: well, it looks the same as my Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor! The coil is a little bit different, and they have improved the connection from the cable to the coil so that it is a bit more seamless. Also, they’ve changed the earhook to a softer, more flexible one, much like the Freedom had. But of course, those aren’t nearly good enough reasons to shell out thousands of dollars for a new processor. It’s the enhanced hearing it offers as well as the new programming strategies. And the best part? They actually work!
The testing started off with me keeping my Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor on. With my right ear alone, they presented sentences with background noise, intentionally making it increasingly difficult with more and more noise until I performed abysmally. Once they got it to the point where I was only understanding 25% of the sentences with the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor, they switched it out with the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor, maintaining the same signal to noise ratio. My audiologist explained that the N6 has a “SCAN” program that automatically adjusts depending on the environment and a new “Noise Reduction” program that automatically suppresses noise depending the amount of background noise presented. I initially was skeptical because I am not typically a big fan of some of the noise suppressing programs and sometimes feel like they took away too much of the sounds I wanted to hear. However, I immediately noticed a huge difference in how I was hearing. My score improved massively, from 25% with the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor to 92% with the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor. I was shocked at how much better I could hear, and it was nice not to have to try so hard to hear with so much noise.
The audiologists also tested my hearing unaided, and determined that I had enough residual hearing to try the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor with the acoustic component, what many people know as a “hybrid”- part cochlear implant, part hearing aid. My audiologist took the Nucleus® 6 from me, took it back to her computer to input my hearing levels, and it was fit to work as a hybrid in a matter of minutes. I was really excited to try it out, but I wasn’t blown away by the results. I did notice that it sounded “fuller” and was aware of the input I was receiving through the hearing aid component, but it was not a significant difference. However, this was only in the soundbooth. I would definitely like to test out the hybrid while listening to music, because I think it definitely has the capability of providing a richer sound and enhancing the bass for those with some residual hearing. I had seen the hybrid version of the Nucleus® Freedom™ Sound Processor, and the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor is a huge improvement. Rather than having to wear an in the ear hearing aid in addition to the sound processor, the hybrid for the Nucleus® 6 is just a tiny wire with a small bud that goes inside the ear, similar to the newer “invisible” hearing aids, and connects to the processor through the earhook.
I was only able to wear it for a couple of hours and for the testing, so my experience with the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor was pretty limited and didn’t get to try out some of the other features that sound interesting. I felt like for me, there was certainly enough of an improvement to warrant upgrading, and I am eagerly awaiting for Cochlear™ to roll out the upgrade program. Before anyone asks, I do not work for Cochlear™, and I simply chose to write this to help people who are debating whether or not to upgrade to the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor. I received no compensation for writing this review, although if any Cochlear™ employees see this- I’d happily take a free Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor processor or two!
Lesley is a bilateral cochlear implant recipient who is heading to Rice University in the fall as a freshman. She first received her Nucleus® cochlear implants at the age of 12 and 14. You can read about her journey as a cochlear implant recipient at her blog.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The wireless communication system for the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor is not yet available commercially. When it becomes available, Cochlear Implant Online will feature a review on the wireless communication system. We will also feature another review of a recipient’s experience in utilizing the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor outside of the audiology room and in the real world.
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