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American Annals of the Deaf

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The Parents' Guide to Cochlear Implants

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By connecting this plug-in microphone with the system, the headset microphone is overridden. If the child then hears, it can be assumed that a problem exists with the headset microphone. This is an easy method of troubleshooting microphone breakdown, and the child can use the plug-in microphone until a new headset microphone can be obtained. Finally, the parent can use the microphone monitoring system that is available with some implants. Parents can listen to the microphone to make sure it is working properly. This accessory does not allow parents to listen to how the cochlear implant sounds but only to how the microphone sounds. Obviously, older children with good listening abilities will be able to report any difference in sound that may be a result of a defective microphone.

Checking the Cords

Depending on the type of implant (whether body-worn or BTE), cords connect the speech processor to the headset. In some cases, this is a two-cord system; in others, it is a one-cord system. Cords for one device will not work on another system. Parents are advised to check cords on a regular basis. Cords that are old and dried out may cause the system to go on and off. A spare set of replacement cords should be kept handy in the event they have to be changed.

Performing Daily Listening and Visual Checks of the System

Parents, teachers, and therapists working with children with cochlear implants should be comfortable handling the equipment and be able to identify signs of potential trouble. Requiring the child to perform some type of quick listening task helps parents and professionals quickly determine the overall functioning of the system. Some implant manufacturers provide a test wand that can easily be placed over the external transmitter to assess the integrity of the entire system. If the system is working, a signal on the wand lights up. Unfortunately, this test does not detect systems that may be intermittent, nor can it identify implants that are not properly tuned.

Alarms, Lights, and Icons

Some implant systems have audible alarms that signal when the battery is about to lose power, the headset has fallen off the child’s head, or the cord is broken. The implant may also emit a series of light flashes or icons to indicate problems with the speech processor. These are individualized among devices. Parents should obtain the proper information from the implant center audiologist about their child’s implant system.

Precautions Regarding Static Electricity

Excessive dryness can create a buildup of static electricity. Exposure to electrostatic discharge (ESD) makes the speech processor susceptible to MAP corruption. A corrupted MAP means that information on the computer chip has been altered in some way. Thus, the sound the child receives may be seriously affected or completely missing. Implant recipients or their caretakers must be aware of the precautions that need to be taken to reduce the possibility of exposure to ESD.

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