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Should you upgrade your implant processor?

Cochlear (and probably all other cochlea implant manufacturers) promise backwards compatibility for all implantees, whenever new technology implants and processors are released.

Recently, in Australia~ Cochlear released its fifth generation processor, N5, backwards compatible upgrade for N24 implants honouring their promise of “Hear Now. Hear Always.” These N24 implants were available from about 2000 to 2004 and used the Sprint processor (body worn pack) and the 3G the, first ear level processor. A few years later, the Freedom was released and became backwards compatible for N24 implants.

But why should someone upgrade?
Most of us who have implants have excellent hearing already so why would or should we upgrade? When I received my 3G (third generation processor) it was amazing. I could clearly understand speech within a few minutes and within a few months was enjoying music again. It was hard to see how an upgrade could improve on that. However, the Freedom processor gave me more intonation in speech and made music more musical. So it was well worth it.

I would consider I have close to normal sound now in my first implanted ear so it would hardly seem worth it to upgrade again. However, recently I trialled the N5 processor before deciding whether to buy it.

I can’t really get clearer speech and it sounds very normal so quality of sound isn’t a reason to upgrade. The first reason to upgrade is the technology. The N5 matches my 2nd implant, the rechargeable batteries are interchangeable between processors and this does away with the need for two different charging units.

A second major reason for me is size. The new slim line N5 is far lighter and more comfortable to wear so this is a real plus for me.

But there are also other reasons:

But does sound quality improve?
Amazingly yes it does. The things I have noticed include:


I believe we owe it to ourselves to hear the best we possibly can. An upgrade processor may not improve your ability to understand speech but surprisingly I am finding there are multiple improvements in the latest upgrade.

~This processor has been available in the USA for some time but took longer to be approved by the FDA in Australia

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