I have a cochlear implant, and I think they are the very best use of modern technology that there is, but did you know that there are four main cochlear implant manufacturers, and people have to choose which manufacturer’s product they would like to be implanted with?
There is absolutely NO way to choose between them, there are no comparative studies, or indeed any way to have a proper comparative study and there are a huge range of outcomes, and we don’t know why, and no one seems to care! So people are tied in for life with one manufacturer, probably on the basis of what colour range they have.
There is no other contract that you are tied in for life with no possibility of change, without even being able to compare the product. We don’t even know how many people have been implanted in this country, NICE have just asked UCL to make up a directory of all hearing implants, including BAHA’s and middle ear implants.
There is a remedy for this, we need an independent biotechnology company to develop the implanted section with a variety of electrode arrays, and universal interface, so once implanted, we can try each of the manufacturers speech processors, and pick the one that is best for us. I doubt if the cost would be particularly high, and the saving could be huge, as the manufacturers would then have to compete!
The interfaces are very similar indeed already, but it isn’t in the manufacturers interest to make processors interchangeable, which is actually very short sighted of them, some people might like to have two processors, because they find one better for music and another better for speech, or one is waterproof, or a variety of reasons.
I know many implantees, I know people of a similar age to me, implanted after a shorter time of deafness, who have done every bit as much work on rehabilitation as me, but don’t have nearly as good an outcome. They have all had a great improvement, and are very pleased they have an implant, just not as good as it could have been. This could be because they were more difficult to implant, it may be a medical reason, but it is also possible that they would have had a better outcome with a different manufacturers device. Without a universal interface, we will never know.
Would you tie yourself in to any contract for anything, knowing it was for life with no possibility of change, without being able to make any meaningful comparison?
By Molly Berry, Lipreading Tutor, Chair of atla (Association of Teachers of Lipreading to Adults). Visit their new website at www.atlalipreading.org.uk
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