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The Jelly Bean-Sized Tech that Turns Cochlear Implants into Wireless Headsets

bluetooth cochlear implant wireless headset
Our world is becoming more and more connected.

Wireless technologies and direct streaming for phone calls and music has become the norm.

It’s common now to see someone walk down the street wearing AirPods. Wireless headphones are readily accessible, but did you know that the same technology is now being used in hearing aids and cochlear implants? Now, people with hearing loss can have the convenience of wireless audio streaming directly to their ears as well!

One of the latest streaming solutions for cochlear implants is the Advanced Bionics’ Naída CI Connect. It’s a jelly bean-sized accessory that attaches to the battery of the Naída CI Q90 sound processor, effectively turning the cochlear implant into a Bluetooth wireless headset. This means cochlear implant users can directly answer phone calls and stream audio to their hearing device.

For this story, we interview Rachel Potvin, who works at Advanced Bionics and also has an AB Cochlear Implant herself. She shares her first-hand experiences with the cochlear implant streaming device, the Naida CI Connect.

HLM: Hi, Rachel. Can you tell us about your story? How did you lose your hearing and how did you become a cochlear implant wearer?

Rachel: My hearing loss stems from a genetic condition that I share with two brothers and three cousins. I grew up wearing hearing aids from age 15, and my hearing gradually declined until it completely disappeared one day about three years ago. Six months later I received my first bionic ear, followed by my second one, about nine months later.

Going from zero hearing, and the incredible isolation that accompanies, to a world rich with sound has been nothing short of life-changing. I wake up every morning immensely grateful for the technology that allows me to hear and connect with the world around me.

HLM: Was it a hard decision to get a cochlear implant, with a history of deafness in your family? How did you come to the decision to get implanted? 

Rachel: The decision was actually very easy for me. I was completely deaf with no access to sound so a cochlear implant was my only option (to be able to hear again). On top of that, my other deaf family members paved the way for me. They all had CIs and did extremely well with theirs. It made the transition so much easier knowing I wasn’t alone in the process.

When you live in the hearing world and are suddenly cut off from the world of sound, it makes the decision a bit easier. It was my only hope if I ever wanted to reconnect with my hearing world, job, and family. I still had the normal apprehension – such as; how well will I hear with bionic ears and will I like the way it sounds?

I knew there would be a learning curve too, so that prepared me for the transition at the beginning. But to this day, I would still say it was the best (and easiest) decision I could have made.

HLM:  What kind of accessories do you use with your cochlear implant? 

Rachel:  I’ve been using the Naida CI Connect, which allows me to stay connected all the time. I can listen to videos or music without ever bothering anyone around me. I find my multimedia experience so much more enjoyable because I’m actually listening to the videos, etc instead of just watching without sound.

HLM: How does this work? 

Rachel:  It’s super easy! I just pair the Connect with my iPhone and once it’s paired, I can just forget about it. Whenever I play a video or music from my phone, it just streams automatically to my processor. When a call comes in, it rings through my processor and I don’t even have to pick up my phone to answer.

When I use my TV Connect, it automatically switches whenever I turn on the TV. It’s seriously so easy!

HLM: How often and in which situations do you use it?

Rachel:  I have it attached to my cochlear implant all the time. I stream a lot of music with it, especially when I’m working out or home alone. I also love to listen to podcasts and audio books, so having it ready to stream at my every whim means that I’ll catch up on a chapter or podcast while I grocery shop or walk through the airport.

Also, I love using the TV Connector with my tablet on the plane to stream bilaterally and not hear the noise of the jet engines. It’s also great to quickly grab a call when I’m not by my phone. I love not having to hold the phone up to my ear all the time! I have a lot of fun with Siri too…while you do need to be in the audible range of your phone to launch Siri, you can then have nice conversations and have her play your favorite music, launch apps, or tell you the weather all without ever touching your phone.

I’m sure my phone is feeling a bit neglected for lack of touch!

“I love not having to hold the phone up to my ear all the time! I have a lot of fun with Siri too…”

Oh, and I also use the TV Connector on my TV at home. It allows me to turn the volume off of the TV so I can watch late at night and not bother anyone or make it obvious to my kids that I’m watching TV past midnight! So really, All. The. Time.

Naída CI Q90 wireless streaming

The Naída CI Connect is a jelly bean-sized device that turns cochlear implants into Bluetooth wireless headsets. (photo: Advanced Bionics)

HLM: Does the Naida CI Connect affect the battery life?

Rachel:  I’ve noticed very minimal impact on battery life, if any. My batteries last me all day and it is very rare for them to die before I shut down for the night.

HLM: How do you think Naida CI Connect can help other AB wearers like yourself?

Rachel: The clarity of the signal is excellent. So, for people who struggle with using the phone it may improve their phone experience. Same with the TV Connector. It makes listening to the TV so much more enjoyable since you can listen at a level comfortable to you and the rest of the family can set their own volume.

I also think that it will be be easier for new recipients (and old!) to get in some extra rehab exercise.

One of the best things to practice with is audiobooks, plus there are numerous apps and programs like SoundSuccess that you can do from anywhere – so there won’t be any excuse not to practice! Where I see the biggest benefit is the overall ease of connecting to my phone and the pure enjoyment that comes with it.

Read more:  How to use Audiobooks for Hearing Rehab

HLM: You’re AB wearer as well as an AB employee. How do you talk to your customers and consumers about the Naida CI Connect?

Rachel:  I see the CI Connect as a great bridge for those of us with a Naída Q90 processor to have access to some awesome technology. We have this technology right now, so there’s really no need to wait.

I also absolutely love the fact that AB developed a solution for someone like me. I’ve been an AB recipient for 3 years, so to access this technology without having to wait for a new processor to be released is great. Even if a new processor came out tomorrow, I wouldn’t be eligible to upgrade for two more years. It’s a great testament to the commitment that AB has to current recipients and those choosing their brand.

So, while it may not be a perfect solution for everyone, I’m very grateful that the option exists for those who want it.


The Naída CI Connect was developed in partnership by Phonak and Advanced Bionics.

The design-integrated solution is compatible with Naída CI Q90. To learn more about the AB CI Connect, please visit AdvancedBionics.com.

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Editor-in-chief of HearingLikeMe.com