Back in the fall, I had an opportunity to attend Cochlear’s Back to School Night in New York City.*
Cochlear presented its newest device, the Kanso. If you haven’t yet read about it, the Kanso is not worn behind the ear, like most cochlear implant sound processors. Instead it sits on the user’s head (where Sonya’s coil currently is stationed).
It’s a pretty exciting development. It’s much more discreet and comfortable, especially if you wear glasses. It is available in eight colors, so the device should blend into most hair colors.
While it is the smallest and lightest off-the-ear sound processor on the market (Med El also has the Rondo), the folks at Cochlear said its technology matched that of the Nucleus 6 processor.
The Kanso is a cool option for adults – but it is clearly not for pediatric use. The device is too big and heavy for someone as young as Sonya to wear comfortably. It jets out more from the head than her current coils. I am also concerned about the location of the microphone. Rather than sitting behind her ears, it would be placed on her head at the location of the implants. It seems that more research needs to be done before we truly understand whether placement of the microphone matters, but in the meantime, I would defer to placing them as close to the ear as possible.
Unlike the Nucleus 6, the Kanso only uses disposable batteries.
Despite these downsides, it is very exciting to imagine having just one device, rather than the three components (processor, coil and battery) that we currently must use (for each ear – in Sonya’s case). Just this week, I had to replace two wires that connect the coil to the processor because they continually wear out (similar to headphone wires). An all-in-one solution is certainly one that we look forward to.
In addition to the Kanso, Cochlear unveiled its newest assistive listening device , the Mini Mic 2+. I am a big fan of the Mini Mic (as I have discussed before).
A Mini Mic is useful for noisy places like crowded restaurants, where background noise makes it difficult to hear.
I simply clip it to my shirt, and it amplifies my voice so that Sonya can hear me above the background noise. The newest device has a much longer battery life (11 hours compared to 3-4) as well as a low battery indicator light.
While it is certainly a great accessory – the Mini Mic does not replace Sonya’s Phonak Roger Inspiro – which she currently uses in school. I was disappointed by this, as the Roger is bulky and not user friendly. It also requires her to use FM receivers that attach to her cochlear implant devices making them even larger. The Roger is more expensive (around $1000 compare to $295 for the Mini Mic 2+).
However, the Roger beats out the Mini Mic in two areas:
1. The Roger has the capacity to hear beyond walls and obstacles in the classroom. The Mini Mic does not. This is a critical advantage. With the Roger, Sonya hears her teachers voice regardless of where she sits in the classroom. Were she to wear the Mini Mic – the sound could be disrupted.
2. The Mini Mic microphone is not always at optimal distance from the speakers mouth. While the Mini Mic is certainly more comfortable to wear, the teacher must be trained to understand where to place it exactly for optimal sound quality. If it rubs against a shirt collar for instance, the sound of the rubbing will be relayed to the listener. It sounds like a minor issue, but any such sound would be tremendously distracting for the listener.
Readers: look forward to any comments related to assistive listening devices you love. Have you tried any new products that have helped or not worked?
* And very sorry for the delay. It has been a hectic winter…