Monday, August 18

Swimming with Cochlear Implants

Drew's Dad wrote a post in February after he found a wonderful You Tube! video showing a way to swim with a cochlear implant on. I have to tell you how excited we were to have found this, as I can not imagine Drew not being able to hear at the beach or the pool. He relies solely on oral communication, so it would be very difficult to communicate with him if he was not wearing his cochlear implants. And as Drew is all boy, we need him to hear us tell him no, stop, don't throw that, etc!

On our recent beach vacation we found a couple of modifications to the video helpful:
  • Sealing: We modified the food saver technique by making two seals on the bag. We would seal the food saver bag once, then move the bag about 1/2" and seal again. This made us 100% confidant that the seals were clean and that the processor would not get any water on it.

  • Increase Magnet Strength: We increased the strength of the coil magnet to help hold the bag to Drew's head a lot better. Typically Drew wears a strength "1" magnet. While using the food saver method, we used a strength "2", which held the coil in place much better, making it not only easy to get the swim cap on, but also keep the magnet in the proper place as Drew ran, rolled, swam and did all sorts of other crazy thing. (Note: We used a strength "1" on Day 1 at the beach and were very frustrated with the ability to keep his ears on.)

  • One: For a bilateral child, only use one implant while swimming. We tried using two and it made getting the swim cap on virtually impossible. There is just too much equipment under the swim cap. It seemed like every time we would get one on with the swim cap, the other side was falling off. So, on Day 2 at the beach, we used just one processor, and had excellent results. (Also note, should you have an accident with a processor getting wet, your child will still have an ear to hear from).

  • Which Ear?: For a bilateral child with varying map intensity, use the ear that has the "weaker" map. Drew's left ear requires much less "power" than his right, so we used the left ear while at the beach, just in case the coil became attached to the wrong ear. When Drew's right processor is accidentally put on his left ear it causes him great pain, so we avoided any accidental issues by "waterproofing" the left ear.

  • Swim Cap Issues: We had a problem with Drew not liking the fact that the swim cap is tight on his head. We avoided having Drew pull his ear off multiple times by allowing him to wear his regular ears to the beach. We changed Drew to the "waterproofed" ear (note the singularity) before letting him out of the stroller. At this time he had so much to do that he wouldn't try to pull the swim cap off. Then we placed his regular ears in the zip lock bag and placed them in our beach bag until we were ready to leave the beach or pool.

I can honestly say that the food saver bag does waterproof the processor, as Drew pulled his swim cap and ear off while sitting in the ocean! The bag was floating in the water, without a drop of water on the processor. For our next trip to the beach I will be bringing a critter clip with us, so we can attach the food saver bag to Drew's swim trunks so that his ear doesn't float away in the ocean!

Overall, the waterproofing technique worked very well, and we were really happy with how well Drew could hear us, even with only one ear, the background noise of the ocean and a bag covering the microphones. He was clearly able to hear us well, even at a distance. At one point Drew was playing in a water puddle about 50 yards from where I was sitting (with his Dad supervising) and he heard me tell him to "jump" in the puddle.

Both Drew's Dad and I commented that we wish we would have brought one of Drew's Hanna Andersson pilot caps to try as the way to keep the coil on Drew's head. We felt very confidant with the waterproofing of the processor, and we both think that Drew would have been more comfortable with the pilot cap, as opposed to the swim cap, as he is used to wearing those at home.

As I read cochlear implant message boards, it seems as though waterproofing hearing technology is a "hot topic". Is there anything you would like to add that has worked well for your family? If so, please leave a comment.


Kel said...

Thank you so much for posting this! With CIs probably in our future, and a toddler that loves to splash and play in water, I've really been wishing there was some way to let my son hear in wet situations.

elizabeth said...

Wow, that is so cool! I've seen the famous "Swimming with CIs" video but never heard of anyone try it. Thanks for giving such a detailed explanation. Glad you had a great time at the beach!

Anonymous said...

We put my daughters Med-El in a 17inch latex balloon and use a ear band it headband to keep it on. We use an old critter clip attatched to the tail of the balloon to prevent loss. In my opinion the greatest advantage to a balloon over the foodsaver is how portable it is. We always carry one or two balloons with us and can just put her processor in it at any time.

Kristen said...

I use the ALOKSAK bags. They are tested by the Navy Seals for being waterproof and have a unique seal on them. After testing them myself, I feel confident that they keep water out. The benefit of these is that you can take them 'on the road' easily. You don't need to haul the food saver with you.

Anonymous said...

Good grief this is incredible!! Even though it's not something we'd even consider (since sign language is starting to fill our lives with a nonverbal child), I think it's incredible that you did the research and went to these lengths for Drew to hear! And who doesn't love the sound of the ocean's waves?

Steven said...

Very creative! I never thought that would helpful eventhough I am engineering student who recent received cochlear implant over the summer. I have been wondered if it's possible for me to use CI for swimming something till your ideas were brilliant! Check my blogspot about my experiences as CI. Thanks!

Naomi said...

great little guide! i stumbled it and forwarded it to as many of my friends as were interested.

i love your blog, it's so helpful!

Abbie said...

I loved reading this, I don't know if I ever will have the guts to try it but this is probably the best tutorial for waterproofing I ever seen :) I'm glad the little guy got to hear the ocean, I just heard the ocean for the first time since activation a week ago with one of my favorite people in the whole wide world :) it is an amazing sound!

Cyborg Queen said...

You said, "When Drew's right processor is accidentally put on his left ear it causes him great pain, so we avoided any accidental issues by "waterproofing" the left ear."

Interesting because If I put my left CI on my right ear, it just cuts itself off and leaves a H6 on the LED screen. Same goes if you put the two processors too close together. Left processor will not work for the Right, and vice versa.

I'm just kind of surprised that it would cause "pain" for Drew for accidental wrong CI processor. Am I missing something?

Drew's Mom said...

Cyborg Queen,

I believe you are talking about a realitively new software upgrade for Cochlear.

We were told by our auidologist that Drew's ears would no longer "work" if placed on the wrong ear, avoiding the pain issue. However, since his last mapping in April, both processors will still work if placed on the wrong ear, and we don't get the H6 issue. We have another mapping in September, so I am going to ask the audiologist. The processors have to be programmed with this new feature, and clearly his are not.

Drew's Mom

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Anonymous said...

I'm a teenager who will be getting my CI switched on this week (previously I've used only a hearing-aid). I've never seen any kid with CIs in my primary school (also a special-ed school) swim with them on! May I know what bag you used, and how I may get it outside of America? Have there been any accidents? Seeing as Drew's using Cochlear (I noted the post on the N5 upgrade), do you know if Cochlear expressly does not recommend using CIs in the pool?
I appreciate the help! It would go a long way in helping my parents feel at ease with me using my CI in the pool - and I probably can now go for swim classes on my own without my brother! <3

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much!