Waterproofing my Cochlear Implant

by | Jun 23, 2016 | Hearing

Summer is here– and ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been afraid of water. I can swim very well, and I enjoy swimming, but I’d been taught to avoid it! Falling into a pool, out of a canoe, or off of a dock could spell disaster for my cochlear implant. After 15 years, I’m even scared of getting splashed. I’ve still been able to swim, but boating trips, pools, and waterparks have always been silent.

However, this is the first summer that I’ve been able to (unofficially) waterproof my cochlear implant. I’m a very cautious person, so I don’t see myself swimming underwater with this setup, but I have tested it underwater. With the help of my mom, who is now an expert in all things CI, we were able to create this setup!

My main issue with waterproofing my CI is the science behind it. A watertight container is also airtight, and my usual batteries need air to work. Instead of my 2-day air-activated batteries, I had to use chargeable batteries for this. I want to say that the charge lasts 6-8 hours, but it’s definitely significantly less than a full day.

I used an older model of CI for this– the Opus! I encourage anyone to use a “backup” CI if they have one.

The next steps can be considered the “bagging” method. My mother got a durable plastic “bag” or sheet, and used a good old-fashioned Seal A Meal to create these little open baggies for my CI. When I explain how I sealed my CI into these bags, the process of making the bags will become more clear.

This is thick, durable, and almost stretchy plastic bag material! There are no real dimensions to these. We only cut the plastic into squares that would fit my CI, and then sealed 3 edges.

The cochlear implant was then able to slip in easily, with room to spare for sealing!

You could make these baggies from scratch each time you go swimming, but with the Texas heat + Austin swimming, my mother decided it’d be easier for me to have pre-made baggies on hand.

I was then able to plug in my Seal A Meal, and follow directions to seal the last end of the bag watertight! I’m not sure why my Seal A Meal looks so beat up, since we purchased it from Amazon solely to figure this waterproof thing out.

After that, I had my very own waterpoof bag! With the Opus, I was able to leave the CI off until I was ready to swim, and then push it into the “on” position through the bag. That way, I can store it “off” until I need it that day.

My bagged CI, working and ready to wear!

With these 4 edges sealed correctly, the bag really should be waterproof. It is most certainly splash-proof, and completely submerge-able when the Seal A Meal is used properly. The only problem is that a bagged CI is more likely to fall right off of your head. A headband solved this problem for me; I used a tie-able headband so I could tie it as tight as I wanted, but any thick headband should work for this.

My solution isn’t as inconspicuous and fashion-forward as I’d like it to be, but it works! I was able to go paddleboarding for the first time, which is a pretty boring and difficult activity if you’re deaf with no sign language capabilities. The complications from meningitis had also left me with ridiculous balance problems, so I definitely needed a waterproof setup in case I fell! The waterproofing was successful, and I didn’t end up falling (which is also a huge balance milestone). I’m looking forward to a completely new experience of summer… and finally figuring out how loud waterparks really are!

Photos taken by my sweet friend Chloe, who took me paddleboarding on my 19th birthday and doesn’t mind being a blog photographer!