I prepared myself. I had a little book of questions. I strode into the office confidently, ready to give my audiologist a grilling. It didn’t quite turn out that way.
I wrote about my issues in my last blog about how my old timer’s implant was on its last legs and that an upgrade was overdue. I have my answers now. I had a little theory that my implant was ‘maxed out’ as someone put it. That there would be no possible upgrades as long as I still had the implant in my head. Turns out I was right.
Cochlear, who are a major cochlear implant maker, have not made their latest external sound processors compatible with my specific type of implant. They say they have plans to make it compatible, but we’ve all heard that before from technology giants.
So I won’t be getting an upgrade to my external sound processor as long as it takes for Cochlear to get around to making their current model compatible, which could be a long way off.
The other burning question in my mind was regarding the possibility of removing the implant ahead of time and replace it with a newer model. The answer was no. Put simply, the NHS will only justify operations at the point of need, when it fails. Which is understandable.
Therefore, I’ll be persisting with my current setup for the foreseeable future. It concerns me though that my hearing is effectively in the hands of a technology company who cannot be held to account over providing compatible equipment for everyone. It looks as if though Cochlear are prioritising newer models over old ones. If that’s the case, then how long will it be before they stop making their processors compatible with my implant?
Cochlear are a business first and foremost. It’s not in their interests to cater to absolutely everyone if it isn’t profitable. In that respect, they’re no different from, for example, Apple who phase out older models of the iPhone, iPod or iPad as newer ones are released.
My tune-up results
Another interesting thing I found out was that implants are now lasting beyond 20 years. While I’m relieved that my implant may not be failing anytime soon, what happens if Cochlear stopped making compatible equipment now? Or in the next year? I could find myself going for the next five or so years without an upgrade, waiting for the inevitable.
That’s not the biggest revelation though. I was discussing finding jobs and mentioned that I worked part-time for two overseas companies and might end up moving abroad to pursue those jobs full-time. The audiologist informed me that if I were to ever move abroad and reside in another country permanently, I would no longer be covered by the NHS.
In such a scenario, I would have to contact the local Cochlear centre, inform them of my presence and needs, and pay for private care if there is no national health insurance equivalent in that country. I would also have to pay for a £13,000 operation when my implant fails.
Which is pretty major for my job prospects. And indeed for anyone with ambitions to work abroad. That’s a big issue and I’m concerned that they didn’t tell me about that before. How many parents or CI users know this particular piece of information?
I suppose I’ve been fairly blasé in terms of actually asking questions about my circumstances. Well, no more. I’m going to make sure I know exactly what I can and can’t do. If you’re a CI user, I suggest you do the same. We, more than most, need to be up to date and well-informed about the latest news in the cochlear implant technology.
This article was first published on Callum’s blog here: http://walkthedivide.wordpress.com/
Callum Fox is walking the divide between the hearing and deaf worlds. Profoundly deaf since birth and CI user. In his spare time he balances being 22 years old, being a football fanatic and trying to make it as a writer, journalist and human being. Follow him on Twitter as @WalkTheDivide
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