Upcoming cochlear implant - can I still use my old hearing aid on other side?

Hi all - this is my first post to the forum. I am scheduled for my second assessment appointment in early April, have already had the MRI and CT. Now I am trying to gather as much info as possible ahead of that appointment, so I know the questions to ask. (And hopefully hear the answers, as I am not allowed to bring someone with me to act as my second reliable set of ears due to Covid restrictions.) I will still be using a hearing aid in my left ear, although the doctor told me it is very likely I will need a second implant in a year or so. Thus, I would like to be able to still use my existing Widex hearing aid - it’s in great working order, having just been reconditioned before the warranty expired. Is this possible? Can I choose a compatible hearing aid at a later date if I still don’t need the 2nd implant? My current aids are Bluetooth connecedt via a Comdex device to my phone. Will that still work in the remaining aid and independently of the cochlear sound processor? I am trying to imagine wearing both a hearing aid and a sound processor that aren’t acting in tandem. Can anyone offer some insight into how that will work? Thank you.

Many people wear 1 x CI and 1 x HA. @Deaf_piper does.

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Welcome to the forum.
You can choose any aid you want to work independently from the CI. Where your CI will stream directly to your ear the aid won’t though. And you could still struggle for some months until you are able to understand speech through your processor.

I’m bimodal, Cochlear N7 and a Resound 3D. By choosing a 3D aid from Redound I have direct streaming directly into my ears to enhance my hearing. This aid can be paired with both my iPhone and processor to give me the most optimal hearing I can get. Phone calls are so easy now, no more struggling to understand the conversation.

Good luck on your new journey.

Thank you, Deaf_piper. So, I won’t be able to stream from my current hearing aid into my “good” ear, at the same time my processor is streaming into my implanted ear?

@susanmarylynn what company are you going with? Cochlear, AB or Med el?
With Cochlear no, with AB no. For Cochlear you need a GN resound aid, either a 3D or Quattro with BT capabilities.
With AB you need a Phonak aid with BT capabilities.
Both Cochlear and Phonak will pair with the above aids.
I do know a Phonak aid will pair with Cochlear processor, but you need a lot of extra ALD’s.

Med el I don’t know anything about so I can’t comment. @Dani can you help advise about Med el please.

Your existing Widex aid will not give you bimodal streaming with either Cochlear or AB. The Widex aid will be independent of these 2 processors. Bimodal meaning both ears together simultaneously.

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That’s what I am wrestling with right now. It seems like such an important decision, given it’s going to be in their permanently. I have been researching until my eyes glaze over. The cochlear center that I am dealing with leaves it up to the patient, apparently. But this evening I visited the website of the other centre in my province and they will implant any of them, but Med-El is their “primary supplier” . I would like to know why, and it is a question for the audiologist on my upcoming visit. I also discovered on the Med-El website that they strive to be “compatible” with any hearing aid, whatever that means. So much information to absorb, I am going to have be more systematic in my note-taking!!

My first “visit” with the surgeon was over the phone on speaker with my husband repeating every word for me. The doctor was left in no doubt how deaf I am! He surprised me though, when he said I will likely be needing a second implant in a year (our public health coverage will only cover one implant a year). This is why I don’t want to purchase a new hearing aid if I can make do with my Widex.

@susanmarylynn I don’t know where you live, in a city or rural. Why not ring/email the 3 companies, asking that a representative comes and speaks to you. Get them to bring the companies devise with them do you can see it. Have a play with the device as well. Then you also have all your questions ready for that particular companies representative. If they can’t come and see you, maybe you can get into their office to gain all the info you need.

You will get more info from the reps about the practicality of each device, and what it can and can’t do. As a lot of CI audiologists aren’t multi device specialists. The auds are excellent at mappings and setting up that particular device the clinic deals with.

Also s question for your surgeon is what device is he/she more skilled at with the operation side of the CI.

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Welcome to the forum.
You are asking great questions. As mentioned, contact the CI companies on email or Facebook. As for help. I use Cochlear in the USA and they have been absolutely wonderful but that’s not saying MedEl or AB are not. Get help from the company’s representatives.

My thoughts are to find a surgeon you like. Ask that surgeon what he/she likes. That will be a pretty good choice.

Good luck and ask questions.

Thank you for your comments, Deaf-piper - Unfortunately I live rurally, but at least within driving distance of the hospital in Toronto that performs implants, about 1.5 - 2 hours away. There are very few CI implant programs scattered across Canada and the place I am referred to is the largest program in Canada, so I feel I am very lucky in that respect. Of course Covid is making this all very awkward - so I am trying to gather as much info as possible via the internet so that I am as prepared as possible with the right questions to ask. You make a very good point to me that CI audiologists aren’t necessarily multi-device specialists - so that is something I will definitely explore with them. As well, I hope the surgeon will be honest about his preferred implant - I want to be sure I have the support and expertise I need every step along this journey.

I am always wary of company websites - and even representatives, because I feel like their goal is to sell me their product. I never feel certain that it is my best interests that they are serving.

Thanks Raudrive. I don’t have the luxury of choosing my surgeon, but the program I am referred to is probably the best in Canada, certainly the largest. So I am assuming it also has the most experienced surgeons. And, yes, I will definitely quiz the surgeon on his preferred implant. That seems to be the most logical determinant. I had been leaning heavily toward Cochlear, then I was distracted by Med-El who claim the compatibility with any hearing aid and gave their rationale. I also like that MRI’s are okay up to 3T with the magnets in place - though I now see that Cochlear also offers that. However, the downside with Med-El, and I am puzzled why, their rechargable batteries only last 7 - 10 hours. That was a game changer for me - I certainly don’t want to be changing out batteries part way through my day. So, if I hadn’t been doing all this research, I wouldn’t be making a very informed choice. It is just getting a bit overwhelming!

Bluetooth connectivity can get confusing. I believe Cochlear has the step ahead on this at this time but that is always subject to change.

Yes, Cochlear has the MRI compatible 600 series implants. I have the CI612 implants. The magnets are weaker and for some the Kanso 2 processor may not hold well until swelling has gone down. Battery life is very good with the Nucleus 7 rechargeable batteries and the Kanso 2 has a member debbie_o reporting 18 hour a day rechargeable battery life.

I have both the Nucleus 7 (on the ear) and the Kanso 2 (off the ear) processors. Either will wirelessly communicate with Android 10 and higher Bluetooth phones without an intermediate device. They also do this with Apple phones. Not having that separate device is very nice.

Oh, that is interesting that you have one of each - off ear and on ear processors. I am I right in assuming that you got your implants at different times? Does you on ear processor feel heavy? I am a bit nervous about the off the ear processors - afraid I would lose it. Which is your preference overall?

Actually I have two of each processors. First implant was 5 months ago and second was almost 2 months ago.

The K2 is like wearing nothing. I flat forget it’s there which is a bit scary. There are different types of clips that can be attached for security if needed.

The Nucleus 7 is about the same size as the Phonak Naida SP aids I have had in the past with size 13 batteries and smaller than the UP aids with 675 batteries. The standard size rechargeable batteries I use on the N7 processors are a little longer than the Naida SP aids. Deaf_piper uses the smaller compact rechargeable batteries on her N7. The N7 processors do not feel heavy, they are actually easy to wear.

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My friend had the first generation AB implant. She was re-implanted with the latest AB implant 4 months ago and was also told it’s MRI safe.

(I’m not a CI user myself. Just know from what she told me.)

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Not an expert about this stuff.
Your phone can only stream to one device. That will be either your Comdex and hearing aid or your new CI processor. The only way for both to stream they have to be compatible. There might be MedEl or AB secondary devices that can do this, I do not know but Cochlear doesn’t have any that I know of.

This is where a CI manufacturer representative could really help you.

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Thanks for that. I am not a techie at all. I am hoping the implant will actually eliminate the need to stream phonecalls. I would be thrilled if I didn’t have to panic when I get a call. That is my greatest challenge, and it would be so nice to hear and advocate for myself again. As I am now, even streamed calls are hit and miss. Perhaps I shouldn’t set my expectations too high.

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@susanmarylynn as long as you are aware, it doesn’t matter which device. You are not going to hear instantly. I went into activation with 3 thoughts.

  1. I’m not going to hear very much at all.
  2. All I’m going to hear is scratchy sounds.
  3. I will understand some speech.

It truly takes time and a lot of hard work in rehab to lay down new sound pathways in the brain. It will happen, but it could take time. I could understand some words upon activation, but not whole sentences. Rehab is very time consuming, I put aside 2 hours minimum every day to just stream audiobooks. Then for the rest of the day I had the radio going all day, so that I was still listening trying to understand the words.

What ever you do, try not to cancel a mapping session. Because with each mapping you will gain more clarity.

I have the N7 and compact batteries. On average now I get about 12-14 hours out of a battery. But during rehab because I was streaming I only got around 10 hours.

Thank you for that. My husband has been after me to listen to audio books, as he has kept himself entertained with them throughout Covid from the comfort of his recliner. He’s not deaf. I tried, but it was too much work. However I do listen via Bluetooth to our national news source which has a lot of human interest stories and very good sound quality. The implant surgeon told me to listen to as much as I can even now, and keep my HA in my “bad” ear. I will take your advice and plan to devote the time each day to rehabilitate. My best friend has already gotten on board, she’s a very methodical type, and has read a very lengthy series of blogs by a woman who has chronicled two implants, so she has an idea of what I will be experiencing. She’s a pretty awesome friend. I am so glad to have found this forum too, so I can benefit from the experience of others like you. I will pay it forward!

We each benefit from different things to learn speech. Your audiologist will recommend things as well people on this forum. My thoughts on this are to just listen to speech a bunch. Things that are familiar helped me more than just any speech. I think a lot of this depends on how soon you pick up speech from activation. I personally haven’t worked real hard at it, just made sure I listened to speech regularly.

I have two bad ears and planned on two implants from the start. On my first implant I had a Phonak aid and the implant at activation. Within a week I took the aid off and left it off until the second ear was implanted. The aid just didn’t compare to the implant and I felt like pushing the implant might help learning speech quicker. Then when the second implant was activated it was like wow, stereo again. Now I am getting some directionality again, pretty nice.

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That is quite amazing! And very encouraging! Every account I have heard speaks of a shocking start after activation. So I will go into it expecting that and anything better will just be such a bonus. Until the surgeon told me to keep listening as much as possible, I hadn’t realized how much Covid had allowed me to retreat into almost a year’s silence in the confines of my home. It became very comfortable and peaceful to not have to interact with the world outside. But I hadn’t realized how important it is to keep listening to speech, as difficult and taxing as it can be.