As a founder of CI Online, I receive many e-mails from cochlear implant candidates asking me “Which cochlear implant brand should I choose?” It is the question that I always want to shy away from if I can. For several years until I released the brand comparison chart, I responded to their e-mails by providing them a thesis written by a graduate student who happens to be an Advanced Bionics recipient, presenting a comparison of all three brands. Then, when the thesis became out of date, and I was asked by numerous people to create a brand comparison chart that would be easy to read, I created the brand comparison chart along with several other people so that candidates could simply have an all-in-one place to see the facts.
Because I happen to be a Nucleus cochlear implant recipient, I don’t feel comfortable sharing opinions on the products of other brands specifically because I do not have the personal experience. However, if people do ask me questions about Nucleus cochlear implants, I am more than happy to provide the information because I have personal experiences in utilizing the device and a relationship with the company. When people ask me for opinions about other brands, I always direct them to other recipients of other brands.
So, why am I writing this post? I have seen enough of brand wars on various forums that it has caused some of the most prominent advocates who have years worth of experiences in utilizing cochlear implants and listening and spoken language to step down and leave the forum because they don’t want to be bothered by brand wars. As a result, the forums are left without important voices of people who can provide a wealth of useful information relating to hearing loss in general.
I also saw messages written by recipients of other brands stating that it’s too bad that I am not utilizing other brands and also messages telling other candidates that they’re crazy to chose xyz brand. No one should ever feel uncomfortable about the choices they make.
While I give great credit to Cochlear for providing me access to hearing, I also give tremendous credit to my parents and therapists for teaching me to speak and hear well and also my audiologists for providing me the highest quality of mappings. I score in the 90′s to 100 percent on HINT (Hearing in Noise Test) and love listening to music. What one has to realize that there are so many variables for success to hearing well. We can’t give the cochlear implant manufacturers the sole credit for success. We also have to consider the effort we put into rehabilitation, the quality of therapists and audiologists, history of recipients’ hearing loss and also parental involvement.
I will also have to say that I am so grateful that there are four existing cochlear implant brands in the world today because competition is what pushes all manufacturers to continue to improve their devices and make them as superior as they can be. When MED-EL created the baby set up for BTE sound processors, Cochlear followed suit. It wasn’t long after MED-EL created a slim sound processor that Cochlear came out with a slim sound processor too. A couple years after Cochlear created a water resistance sound processor with a rating of IP57, Advanced Bionics released a waterproof sound processor with a rating of IP68. I am sure that MED-EL and Cochlear will eventually come out with sound processors that will be swimmable like Advanced Bionics’ Neptune™.
ALL manufacturers are researching around the clock to create the highest quality and most-up-to-date technology in order to continue to attract as many new candidates as they can and keep their current recipients for years to come.
The bottom line is that I am so disgusted by brand wars and people claiming this or that brand is the best of all and claiming this or that brand is horrible. Why do we need them in the first place anyway when there is no clear indication of which brand provides the most superior quality of hearing? If one manufacturer was clearly providing all recipients with horrible quality of hearing, that manufacturer would not be making a good business or would be out of business.
Let’s please put the brand wars aside and not spend so much time pushing one particular brand on other candidates. Let’s just be people who happen to hear with cochlear implants and focus on creating awareness of cochlear implants in general and the fact that deaf children can learn to hear and speak today.
Did you know that only 7% of people who are qualified to get cochlear implants are hearing with them today? We need to put effort into letting the general population know about the existence of the technology.
There are many health insurance providers that are still not covering cochlear implants or even bilateral cochlear implants. We need to put effort into advocating for health insurance providers to cover cochlear implants and bilateral implantation.
We have a lot of work to do and spending time pushing candidates to go with a particular brand should not be on the list.
Also, please take a moment to read a great blog entry by a parent of a child with bilateral cochlear implants and see a wonderful picture of three cochlear implant recipients, each of them with different brands.