October 11th, 2012 by Rachel | Tags: Aqua Accessory, Cochlear Implant, Cochlear™, New Product | 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!
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- We can wear a headband and place the headband around the Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor.
- We can wear a swim cap.
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.
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.