Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Go-Go Gadgets

Just dropped a little over $700 on new CI processor supplies, including two new batteries (the old ones are down to about 4 hours of service on a full charge now) at $175 apiece and a new t-mic at $150. (I was startled at how much better I heard when my audiologist put a new t-mic on my processor during the recent visit; she said that they get dust and debris in them over time and they, too, have a life expectancy.) I mention the prices to give you an idea of what components for this system cost; the Canadian health care system paid for the big kit with all the accessories when I first got implanted, but replacement costs are my responsibility. (I do get a significant non-refundable tax credit as someone who is permanently disabled, though, which offsets these costs.)

I also splashed out on something that is not necessary, but which is rapidly becoming so in a time of global climate change and its related weird weather. When I chose my processor system, I opted to use rechargeable batteries for power. This is an image of my battery charger, where the little brown batteries go to recharge. The green light at far right means that the charger is plugged in; the red light on the battery second from right means that battery is currently charging.

Once charged, the battery slides onto the bottom of the processor; in this photo, it's about halfway installed on the processor, to make it easier for you to see where the processor stops and the battery starts.

Choosing this option meant that the whole unit is worn and powered at ear level, so it's convenient, more discreet, and less clumsy than other options, about which more later. The downside is that the batteries are expensive and will eventually no longer be able to be recharged, and most importantly, if I don't have access to electricity, I can't recharge the batteries as they die, I eventually don't have access to battery power, and I don't hear.

The original kit came with travel adapters for the charger plug, and so far on our trips abroad we've had no problem using them with the charger. However, as our travels take us further off the beaten path - which is our plan - that's not necessarily always going to be true. Just as important, everything from climate change (the winter from hell last year, for just one example) to the threat of terrorist activities and interruptions, large and small, in places near and far (the attacks in NY had remarkable impacts here, ranging from financial institutions not being able to access information to people not being able to get prescriptions filled for weeks afterwards) have us all packing 72-hour emergency preparedness kits and considering how we will get along if we are without electricity for multiple days or even weeks. So I got myself this little guy: an Auria Powerpak. It's a system consisting of a clip-on powerpack that takes one regular AA battery and which is attached to a cord ending in a unit which slides onto my processor, just like my battery normally would.

Using this system, one AA battery will give me one and a half days' worth of power. At $250, it's an invaluable backup system and a great investment.
If you're wondering about that appendage protruding from the bottom of the processor attachment, it's called a "huggie" (srsly!). The huggie is installed to make up for the fact that using this system, you don't have the weight, and hence the stability, that the independent battery normally would provide; the huggie hugs behind the ear and makes the processing unit more stable. This body-worn battery system seems to be standard for kids; probably because the rechargeable batteries are small, expensive and easy to lose, and the cord being attached would also make it harder to lose the whole shooting match.

Which would, at a replacement cost of around $7,175, suck.


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Anonymous m.e. said...

only $175 for a new rechargeable battery? mine cost $195 each now. but i completely gave up on them...same reason as you mentioned--their usable hours dropped way down. i found an online supplier for those good german CI batteries. if i get three boxes of 10 6-packs each, they cost about half of what i'd have to pay at CVS, and they last twice as long as anything available OTC here. i don't use the lapel mic at all. maybe i should. i know i LOVE the patch cord to the DVD player, though nobody else can hear anything when i've got it hooked up. i also love the patch cord to my walkman. my use of german batteries is probably not too green, but i do recycle the little buggers at gallaudet's walk-in clinic, and i figger since i haven't had a car in 17 years, that makes up for some of this....har.

2:12 a.m.  
Blogger Carl said...

In terms of economics, how about using rechargeable AA batteries? Mine cost under $10 (US) for a four-pack and they hold more energy than an alkaline battery. It would have to be cheaper than $175!

9:43 a.m.  
Blogger Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

What a little marvel this CI is! I feel a great affection for the inventors of these terrific things.

11:40 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

M.E., I believe your processor model is different than mine (Auria), is it not? Otherwise I'd look into those German batteries... I wonder if they make them for the Auria...

Carl, I'll almost certainly be getting rechargeable batteries to use with it. The challenge there is, of course, they also need electricity to recharge; so I'll need to keep a stockpile of disposable batteries on hand in case of an extended power outage anyway. And even those will need to be tested periodically and replaced as necessary because their shelf-life isn't infinite.

N.F.T.P. - you've put into words something I kind of felt but have never put my finger on until now. Not only do I feel affection for the inventors (and certainly the "human guinea pigs" who received the first crude implants and worked for hundreds of hours giving feedback to doctors), I feel affection for the processor itself... It's a bit like another pet, really... if more costly to feed!

12:31 p.m.  
Anonymous Dann said...

Hi Ronnie,

I use Rayovac I-C3 rechargables for my camera that last forever. And they recharge in 15 minutes. They run about US$20 for a four pack.

Have you looked into solar power as an enegy source. There are a number of small solar kits out there that might be capable of doing.

Here's one I found in a quick bit of Googling that seems portable enough for your off the grid use.


5:41 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Thank you Dann! I'll definitely look into both the batteries and the solar panel (a long-term solution to long-term power loss - very intriguing!)

Your comment made me laugh because about a week into my current job, I was meeting with my supervisor when my battery died (it happens like a light switch snapping off) and I had to excuse myself to go to my office and change it. When I returned to his office, my supervisor (with whom I've worked with in various capacities for over a decade) said, "What you need is a little solar panel, for your head...!" It was such an intriguing idea I found it as interesting as I did funny. (The headpiece is just sitting there, doing nothing... why shouldn't it be powering the unit?) The problem with the idea, of course, is that even in the sun the headpiece, the logical place for a solar receiver, is far too small to generate any kind of useful solar power. But it was an interesting idea...

8:45 p.m.  
Anonymous m.e. said...

my rechargeable CI batteries are custom made for my CI. I can't just go into any hardware store and buy all the wonderful rechargeables there.

what size of the little round batteries does your CI use, ronnie? mine are 675. other sizes are available, too.

let me know if you use 675, and i'll send you a pack....

10:11 p.m.  
Anonymous m.e. said...

GREAT idea on the solar panel!!!! you suggest it to your company, and i'll suggest it to mine.

and btw, i do love this little bugger. just miraculous

4:11 a.m.  

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