Saturday, March 19, 2011


This is supposed to be a blog about hearing loss and cochlear implants, isn't it? I nearly forgot.

I've had my CI processor for just a month under 6 years now, and it's starting to show serious signs of wear.

A small piece of plastic chipped off the spot where the headpiece wire goes into the processor proper; and now the wire slips and I have to push it back in once or twice a day. When that happens, I lose sound until the wire is securely repositioned. ("Why aren't they made of titanium?" Husband frowned. It'd make them prohibitively expensive, I suppose.) The finish on the side that rubs against my glasses is all rubbed away, but that's merely cosmetic. What really worries me is that if that spot on the processor cracks further, the wire may not stay attached at all. (I shall have to use teeny, tiny pieces of duct tape, I suppose.) All of this has made ordering a replacement a priority.

And oh! what jolly good fun that has been. It makes choosing a cell phone plan or researching a new car look like child's play. The first one was paid for fully by Medicare (yay Canada) and the team at the NSHSC ordered it for me. This time I have spent a dizzying amount of time researching things. (Although I wouldn't say I've been "on my own". My audiologist at the NSHSC has been incredibly helpful.)

How much will the new kit (including processor, headpiece, battery charger, and 4 batteries) cost?


Whoa. Okay.

(Thank god for the strong Canadian dollar. A price list I have from 2009 from the Canadian agent for Advanced Bionics lists it at around $8000CAD.)

What, if anything, will Medicare contribute? (Nothing.) What, if anything, will my Blue Cross insurance (which covers things that Medicare doesn't, like glasses and dental and prescriptions) cover? ($640. They classify it with hearing aids). Will I be able to claim a portion of it back on my taxes next year? (Yes, although how much I'm still investigating.)


I recognize that because of public health care, Canadians tend to have a bit of a sense of entitlement about medical cost coverage. Why do I have to pay for this? It's a medical expense! Shouldn't the government pay for this?

Well, no. The whole point of the public health care model is that we all pay in through our taxes, and we all access health care without up-front payment as we need it. That model isn't sustainable if we pay for everything health-related, for everyone, in all circumstances, all the time. I've already mentioned that some optical, dental, and prescription costs aren't covered (although it's important to note that these things are covered by government for people on Social Assistance or Disability). Neither are replacement cochlear implant processors, and lots of other prosthetics and devices in certain circumstances.

The cost is daunting, but the bottom line is that we are people who are able to absorb the cost, grumbling aside. And it goes without saying that it is an absolute necessity for my employment and my relationships and my life.

Anyway, when I do order, I'll be upgrading to a new processor which is supposed to have superior sound mapping and which - supposedly - processes music even better.

So it's a hit, but to quote a friend of mine "it's a happy kind of pain".




Blogger Carl said...

My eyeglass frames are titanium and they are hardly prohibitively expensive.

I hope the new processor works great.

2:09 a.m.  
Blogger Mike said...

I probably shouldn't have read this just after blogging about the new team at "Dick Tracy." I'm having visions of Diet Smith bringing out the latest upgrade and, while I'm sure things have improved, I imagine that superpowers are still not among the options.

But hearing is good, and hearing even better is even better. This really is some astonishing technology and I'm glad you've got access to it!

7:56 a.m.  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

I was going to comment that I hope the new processor has a setting that makes people say what you want to hear... but ol' Eastern Time Zone Mike beat me to it.

I'll just go ahead and ditto his last paragraph, too.

1:53 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Carl, I just had another look at the processor. Most of it is metal. The only part of the processor proper that is plastic is the place where the wire plugs in. In other words, the place that is subjected to a certain amount of pressure/manipulation daily. Duh.

Mike & Sherwood, I am anticipating that is exactly how it happens. Also, Q may be involved. Am also anticipating superpowers. I am already a cyborg, after all.

8:56 p.m.  
Blogger Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

I love the AB website's remark about "life's incredible soundtrack." I take it so for granted and it's good to remember what many of you have to do (and pay!) to have it. SO glad these little wonders exist.

4:16 p.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

you've always led the way for me with this CI bidness, and time is coming for my replacements, too. I'm askeert to even type the price Cochlear wants for my processors. Hint: the new ones, back in 2007, were about US $20,000 each! i discovered in 2008 that the rechargeable battery just isn't strong enough for me. After the first ten recharges or so, it craps out after an hour or so. bah! humbug!
I did get my first ones for just the co-pay ($100 or so?), but my insurance co. now doesn't wanna pay for any of it.
all that's left is the lottery!! and I see someone else won Mega-Millions AGAIN!!!

9:33 p.m.  
Anonymous audiogram Boston Ma said...

I am big fan of people who blog their personal experiences. I've enjoyed reading all your blog posts. Keep it up...

3:31 a.m.  
Blogger jason swan said...

follow up with blue cross again. A co-worker whose son has CI has been told verbally by Blue that they will cover his upgrade 80%.

I have a pre-approval request in the works right now with them myself.

The co-worker said that it appeared to be a recent change in policy to categorize cochlear implants separately from hearing aids.

Of course, it might all be ever so much bullshite and false hopes, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

6:42 p.m.  
Anonymous Danika Jackson said...

I am all for doing what you need to do to hear and see on a day to day basis. My dad wears hearing aids as well and loves them.

8:44 p.m.  

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