CiPod Wireless: AirPod Attachments for Cochlear Implants

About: I'm currently pursuing a masters in occupational therapy, with a special interest in assistive technology.

Since cochlear implant microphones sit above the ear, and the user does not hear through their ear canal, users have traditionally been unable to use AirPods. These are instructions for attaching earbuds to bilateral MED-EL Sonnet cochlear implant processors in such a way as to direct the audio output into the cochlear implant microphones, allowing the wearer to utilize off-the-shelf AirPods. These AirPods are attached to the battery pack cover so they can be removed when not in use by switching out the battery pack cover. This makes them small enough to be carried in a pocket unlike over the ear headphones that are more common with CIs. Unlike a direct to audio cable the user can still hear ambient noise and conversation while using their AirPods. Since AirPods have a microphone built in the user can comfortably talk on the phone while wearing the AirPods. Basically it's awesome.

This tutorial will give you the files needed for the arms, and instructions on how to attach the arms that will be connected to the battery pack. Please note if you do not have access to a 3D printer, there are companies online that you can send the files to that will print the arms for you.

Materials (prices are from 3/18/18)

2 MED-EL Sonnet cochlear implant battery covers ($50.00/each)

Double Bubble Non-Sag Red Epoxy ($10.70)

2 Cube Magnets, 5mm ($15.99 you will have many extra)

Labeled Bar Magnet ($12.74, or do a bit more work and determine your magnet's polarity for free through this YouTube Tutorial)

White Painter’s Tape ($5.99)

Apple AirPods ($159.00)

Step 1: Print the Attachment Arms

Use the linked documents to 3D print the arms. Please note if you don't want to print them yourself you can use an online 3D Print service that will print them and mail them to you.

These arms were printed on a Stratasys 3D printer using VeroBlack filament.

At the end of this Instructable the SLDPRT files are available as a "Tip" for anyone who is printing these using SolidWorks.

Step 2: Sand the Magnet Holes

Roll up some sandpaper and slide it into the opening where the magnet will go and sand the opening down until the AirPods will slide in. Don't sand them down too much, as the close fit allows the arm to grip each AirPod. If the openings wear down and the AirPods become loose, the magnet will still hold the AirPod in place once they are slid all the way into the opening.

Step 3: Put in the Magnets

Each of the square slots is for press-fitting a 5mm cube magnet with the south pole facing out. In order to press fit the magnet in with the south pole facing outward, attach it to the north pole of a labeled magnet first and check which pole is south (it's the one that is attracted to the north pole of the labeled magnet) then press 5mm cube magnet into the square slot. Double check that you put it in with the south pole sticking out by checking again with the labeled magnet.

If you want to skip buying a labeled magnet, here is a YouTube tutorial that shows different ways to find out the polarity of an unlabeled magnet.

Step 4: Cover the Proximity Sensors

The AirPods have a sensor that will cause the music to stop playing if there is nothing in their immediate vicinity. It's a nice feature if the AirPod is going to sit in an ear, not so helpful if the AirPod is going to sit on top of a CI device. Use some white painter's tape to cover the sensors. (We used blue painter's tape, which you can see clearly in the photos.)

Step 5: Glue the Arms to the Battery Cover

Before gluing anything put the AirPods in the attachment arms so that you can ensure that the speakers are exactly where you want them, with the front edge of the speaker just over the front edge of the front microphone and the speaker flat against the top of the processor. Use the Double Bubble Non-Sag Red Epoxy to make a firm hold, which will take about 10-15 minutes.

Step 6: Rock Out!

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