Increasingly at BRITE, we receive enquiries from college staff looking for technology to assist students with cochlear implants. A cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or very hard or hearing. As the CI is a relatively recent development, it is likely that in the next few years you may find yourself supporting more students with cochlear implants. Lots of information exists online about what a cochlear implant is and how it works. There are links to further resources at the end of this post.
A CI provides the student with access to sound, but does not restore, or simulate, natural hearing. Therefore a student with a CI will benefit from a combination of good classroom acoustics, inclusive teaching practice and possibly, also an FM system (radio aid).
You may be familiar with FM systems as a useful tool for hearing aid users, e.g. Phonak SmartLink and MicroLink. An FM system is comprised of two parts: a transmitter (microphone) and a receiver, worn by the student. The receiver inputs the sound from the transmitter/microphone directly into the hearing aid, thus minimising the effect of background noise and improving the quality of the speaker’s voice.
FM works in the same way for CI users, although a specific kind of receiver will be needed, depending on the student’s CI and speech processor (which looks like a behind-the-ear hearing aid). The best source of advice on which kind of receiver to use is the student’s cochlear implant clinic. BRITE Links should note that FM systems, including receivers suitable for CIs such as the Phonak Freedom, can be accessed for evaluation via the BRITE Equipment Loan Bank.
If you would like to know more about CI, look out for Ear Foundation courses. I recently attended one in London on the topic of ‘Trouble-shooting Cochlear Implants: Day-to-day Management including FM systems’. The course went into a great deal of depth and drew on the expertise of a number of specialists in the field.
What is a cochlear implant? A website for teenagers
Ear Foundation Courses