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Aqua Accessory Review

October 11th, 2012 by | Tags: , , , | 23 Comments »

Cochlear™ recently released a new accessory that will allow Nucleus® recipients who wear Nucleus® 5 Sound Processors, to hear underwater, including in oceans, lakes and rivers.  While it is still under FDA review in the United States, it has been approved for use in Canada.  While it has also been approved in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and many other countries around the world, it will not be released to the public until end of this year or early 2013.  The Aqua Accessory cannot be used with the Nucleus® Freedom Sound Processor and any other cochlear implant brands because the warranty will be void should if the sound processors break.  The Aqua Accessory can only be used with the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor because the sound processor has an IP rating of 57.  I should also note that rechargeable batteries must be used when using the Aqua Accessory.

For the past year, I saw rumors on various forums that Cochlear was planning to release a new accessory that would turn the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processors to IP68.  The rumors have clearly stated that it was going to be a bag that would be used only one time.  So, I was very prepared not to see a new sound processor.  However, I had no idea how the bag would be designed.  When I first saw the image a few weeks ago, I did seriously quietly say to myself, “Ugh! That looks so unattractive and uncomfortable!”  However, I kept the words to myself because sometimes pictures don’t say everything.  In other words, I didn’t want to jump into conclusions until I actually try it on myself.  Plus, I am more than happy that at least I will have the opportunity to finally hear underwater regardless of any circumstances!

Rachel wears the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor at Blue Lagoon in Iceland without the Aqua Accessory.

Before I go on, I would like to explain Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor’s water resistance rating.  Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor’s water resistance rating is IP57.  The highest IP rating is 68, which means that products can be submerged underwater beyond 1 meter and can be used for swimming and are also fully dust proof.  IP57 means that Nucleus® 5 Sound Processors can be immersed in still water up to three feet for 30 minutes.  If you have no plans to dip your head underwater, there is absolutely no need to use the Aqua Accessory.  Cochlear’s warranty does indeed cover damage should if the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor gets dropped underwater by accident anytime and gets picked up within 30 minutes.  In fact, if it gets dropped in the water by accident anytime, it should continue to work as it is supposed to be.  I have personally accidentally dropped my Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor in the pool by accident and it continued to work like a miracle!  Let me reiteriate again – it is totally fine to go in the pool, lake, bathtub, or hot tub with your Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor without the Aqua Accessory as long as you do not put your head underwater.  You can even freely roam outside in the rain and play in the sprinklers without problems.  Click here to read about my experience in wearing the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor at a hot bath in Iceland.

When using the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor with the Aqua Accessory, the IP rating is 68.  That means that we can swim underwater and hear in not only pools, but also lakes, rivers, and ocean!

Even though in the picture, the Aqua Accessory does appear to be uncomfortable when wearing it on the head, it is actually indeed comfortable!  The material of the bag is very thin like an ordinary sandwich bag and is also very flexible.  However, the appearance of the product will certainly embarrass us, Nucleus® cochlear implant recipients, when wearing it because without any doubts, we will get a lot of stares from people!  This problem can be solved easily by wearing a swim cap, although wearing a swim cap can distort the quality of hearing even further.

Rachel with the Aqua Accessory

Because the material of the bag is very thin, I personally noticed very little distortion in sounds.  I was still able to understand speech clearly, as I had a brief conversation with my mother while I was taking a shower.

Because the bag weakens the connection between the headpiece and the internal cochlear implant, there is a chance that the headpiece could fall off.  This problem can be solved very easily thanks to Cochlear™’s unique magnet feature.  All we have to do is screw the magnet down further with our own fingers to increase the connection strength!

While the bag does understandably look large and unattractive, I believe that Cochlear has thought very wisely and carefully when designing it.  Every human has a unique anatomy structure.  By this means, every cochlear implant recipient’s placement of the magnet is different.  Some may have the magnet placed right behind the ear while some others may have it placed high up on the head.  Some also have it placed right above their ear.  My sister, Jessica, and I both have completely different magnet placements.  My magnet is placed low on the head and right behind the ear while Jessica’s magnet is placed high above her ears.  In fact, I use a one inch cable while Jessica uses a two inch cable.  Therefore, I believe the bag was designed to accommodate various magnet placements.

Rachel’s Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor with 1-inch cable.

Jessica’s Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor with 2-inch cable.

Jessica with the Aqua Accessory

There are certainly concerns regarding how the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor will stay on the head while swimming, especially in the ocean with strong waves.  There are three solutions.

  1. There is a hole on the seal of the bag.  We can tie a string to the hole and attach a safety pin to the other end of the string and clip the pin onto our bathing suit.
  2. We can wear a headband and place the headband around the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor.
  3. We can wear a swim cap.

A hole in the seal part of the Aqua Accessory

I wore the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor with the Aqua Accessory while showering, and the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor stayed on my head without any issues, even when washing my hair.  However, I believe that I will not be wearing my Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor with the Aqua Accessory in the shower everyday because it would truly be a pain to take the time to put the Aqua Accessory on the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor every morning.  I would certainly do it only when I am home alone with no strobe light in the bathroom.

Rachel with the Aqua Accessory after the shower.

I should also note that the Aqua Accessory is very certainly a one-time use as it’s very hard to open the bag once you seal with the 3M adhesive tape.  However, it is very easy to tear it.

The Aqua Accessory is certainly not the most perfect solution because we all will look absolutely dorky.  However, I believe in having a positive attitude.  We, Nucleus® cochlear implant recipients who wear Nucleus® 5 Sound Processors, should be grateful that we finally have a solution to hear underwater.  The Aqua Accessory is better than nothing.  Not to mention, the Aqua Accessory is a very inexpensive solution to hearing underwater.  By this means, we do not need to worry about paying for an expensive upgrade and/or battling with the health insurance to approve the upgrade.  Because the competition between three cochlear implant manufacturers is intense, I fully expect Cochlear to release a fully waterproof swimmable sound processor soon.

This December, I have plans to go to a beach and pool and so, I will do a follow-up review on my personal experiences in using the Aqua Accessory at the pool and beach.

Because there are unfortunately people who do not know how to be respectful, I will need to lay out the rules for commenting under this post.  I highly encourage Nucleus® cochlear implant recipients to criticize and share all opinions about the Aqua Accessory so that Cochlear™ can know whether or not they are satisfying their customers and what they can do to improve their products.  However, I will not tolerate any bashing from Advanced Bionics recipients and MED-EL recipients who will not experience in using the Aqua Accessory unless they choose to risk in voiding their warranty.  Bashing will serve no good and will only make Nucleus® cochlear implant recipients feel bad about their choice of brand.  As I did not criticize Advanced Bionics’ Neptune™ because I will personally never experience in using it, I would appreciate the same respect in return.

*DISCLAIMER* As stated in the disclaimer on the bottom of the homepage of Cochlear Implant Online, neither CIO nor its contributors are paid, or endorsed, by any cochlear implant manufacturer. I did not receive payment from Cochlear for this review even though I am working as a consultant for Cochlear Americas.  My Canadian grandparents purchased the Aqua Accessory for me and Jessica.  The views expressed here are solely my own.

23 Comments

Eric Phillips

October 11, 2012 at 4:05 am

Very exciting! Your review is very detailed and much appreciated. I’m sure my daughter will want one.

October 11, 2012 at 4:07 am

Thanks for a great review! While I don’t think I will purchase the Aqua Accessory for myself, I am glad to hear that the sound quality is not impacted (at least not significantly) by the bag. I agree, it’s not the sleekest thing ever made, but it gets the job done! I think it’s a great inexpensive solution for those planning to spend time around water, and I am sure Cochlear is working on a next generation processor that will have even better ways of being waterproof. Honestly, I feel like the people complaining about not getting a better way to waterproof the processors would also be complaining about having to shell out $7,000 (or $14,000 if they’re bilateral) just to have the benefit of peace of mind while swimming and showering.

Brittany

October 11, 2012 at 4:30 am

that is so cool I really want to try it while I am going swimming, hot tub, many different things like that. I have cochlear implant on my right ear, and it’s freedom bite I think I am not sure exactly

jodi

October 11, 2012 at 8:15 am

Excellent!!!
xoxo,
Jodi

October 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Great review Rachel! Our new CI Center just submitted for the N5s for Aiden, so hopefully he’ll be sporting them before Christmas! I tried the whole aloksak bag and swim cap this summer but he wanted nothing to do with it. I’m hoping this will be a better solution for him because I really want to get him through swimming lessons before next summer and I want him to hear during them (hmmm, will have to get in touch with my Canadian family & friends ; ) ). Aiden’s AVT sent me a link to Nammu hats – nammuhats.com – to try as an alternative to swim caps (easier to get on a four year old’s head) so the two together should be a perfect fit.

Larry

October 11, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Please explain what you heard underwater.

Lisa K

October 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Thanks for the detailed description. I agree it’s “dorky” looking, but we’ll see this summer if my son will give it a try. He’s really wanted to be able to hear at the pool and beach. I keep wondering how it will stay on the ear as one moves through the water.

Janice Sue

October 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Thanks so much Rachel for the review. I am a scuba diver and was wondering if there is a depth limitation on the Aqua Accessory. The depth limit for an implant recipient is 99 ft. without the processor, of course. Does the Aqua Accessory allow that much depth with the processor? Even if it doesn’t I’ll will use it around the pool with all my grandchildren around, it will be a great accessory!

Paula

October 11, 2012 at 2:14 pm

GREAT review. Thanks Rachel!

Karen MacIver-Lux

October 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I found this review extremely helpful Rachel! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this review in such beautiful language that contains truthfulness, respect and positivity. I look forward to hearing about your experiences in salt water environments, as I’m primarily concerned about corrosion. I’m so grateful that the dream of being able to swim and hear at the same time is being heard, recognized and addressed by hearing device companies. What a wonderful thing!

Vincent Billard

October 12, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Very interesting, thank you very much for this review! In France we too are waiting for this product, my daughter will be pleased to hear during the bath or at the beach. I think that cochlear should make a complete swim cap including this kind of bag so the implant recipients could wear it more comfortably and with a better look…

Rachel

October 14, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Hi Janice,

According to Canada’s guidelines, unfortunately recipients cannot scuba dive with the Nucleus 5 Sound Processor with the Aqua Accessory, as there is a depth limit. I don’t know what’s the depth limit, but I will see if I can get more details.

——

Thank you others for your comments!

Vicki

October 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm

We are in the states. Can you tell me the cost?

Amanda

October 23, 2012 at 1:05 am

Thanks for all this information Rachel. I live in Australia at the beach and my 2yr old son has bilateral implants. I currently run the risk with his processor and allow him to wear one in the bath as he was born 100% hearing and went deaf through illness so he finds it very hard when he can’t hear.
I have been trying to find ways myself of waterproofing the processor. I currently put his inside a zip seal sandwhich bag and then I have made a band out of wetsuit material that holds it in place. I found a swimming cap too hard to put on a 2yr old.
I’m really looking forward to its arrival in Australia.

Nina Manfredini

October 25, 2012 at 10:38 am

Thanks very much for all the great informations Rachel. Can you perhaps tell me where to get an aquabag? We are in Austria and it’s really hard to get something compareable cause it’s such a small country – what shall I say :-)
I would really be grateful to get some informations where to get such an aquabag to try or where I could buy it.

Kelli

November 9, 2012 at 2:39 pm

What is the cost of the aqua accessory? Since they can only be used once, how many come in a package?

Rachel

December 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Nina -I believe the Aqua Accessory is not for sale yet in Austria. I would check with your cochlear implant center or Cochlear Europe.

Kelli and Vicki – According to Cochlear Canada, the cost is $13.00 for a pack of 5 and $46.00 for a pack of 30.

Emma Cranley

December 23, 2012 at 11:53 am

Thanks so much for your excellent review. The Aqua Accessory has just been released in Australia. I know it is not the most attractive thing, but my kids aged 2 and 5 (both have bilateral cochlear implants) love the opportunity to finally hear while they are swimming. We have only had the bags for a week. We have ordered some stronger magnets to help hold the implant on while it is in the bag. Swimming caps do hold the implant on but are too hot out in the sun. The wetsuit headband squashed the bag into the top of the top of their ears and made their ears sore. Now working on sewing some elastic onto the wetsuit headband to hold the processor. Will also check out the Nammu Hats website as suggested above to see if I can get them in Australia. At least my kids are too young to care what it all looks like, they just want to hear.
The headbands cost $7 for 5 covers or $60 for 60 covers in Australia.

Rita

January 26, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Alhtough I am a positive person I do my research now I have a CI and as AB are coming out,or already have,a much smaller processor and a waterproof one,so no user needs to get stared at as if coming from another planet!!(some ppl are very sensitive and not everyone is the same) then I expect COCHLEAR to have a smaller processor and waterprrof one too.Yes what we have is better than nothing,but we could say that living in a shed….when the neighbour has a castle.Everything is relative.
Come on cochlear when are you going to keep up!!

February 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm

my daughter had a hearing test friday just gone and her audiologist told us that her proccessor was pretty water resistant without an aqua accessory! took her swimming the next day and let her wear 1!! it was amzing being able to chat and her being able to properly communicate with other children also swimming. shes not a big swimmer at all but does like to jump in and dunk under a lot! i was such a worried parent around summer when the paddling pool was out…id always make sure her (ears) implants were kept inside well away from water…now im very confident about them being safe near water i can not wait for her to b able to hear all her friends splashing around this year.. happy mummy xxx

Tamara

March 20, 2013 at 4:52 pm

I have been looking all over you the aqua bags for the nucleus 5. can anyone tell me where to order them?

Cheryl

April 21, 2013 at 8:35 pm

I live in the states and have a 3 yrs old boy. Last year we tried Alasok bags and vacuum sealed them (same idea as the picture). The only problem we had was when he jumped in the water the bag would pop off and pull the magnet off. I guess the force of hitting the water?? It became more of a hassle to put it on everytime so he could hear than to let him jump in. I am happy Cochlear came out with a solution, although it still looks just as bulky as my home made solution. Does anyone know if this will come off easily while jumping in the pool or going down a slide? We tried the swim cap on top last year and my son complained that he couldn’t hear with it on, so I am looking for alternative ideas.

Katrina

May 18, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Thank you for sharing your review and photos my son has the implant and we have been discussing how we can make sure it does not fall off when using water slides as he is not keen on wearing a swim cap he has chosen a bandana instead, he thinks he is so cool now and I have to admit although I’m not into skull and cross bones he can carry it off!

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