CiPod: Earbud Attachment for Cochlear Implants

Introduction: CiPod: Earbud Attachment 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 earbuds. 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 earbuds. These earbuds are attached to the battery pack cover so they the earbuds 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 earbuds. If the headphones have a microphone on the cable the user can comfortably talk while wearing the earbuds. Basically it's awesome. (Prices are from 3/3/18)

Materials:

Apple Ear Pods or other ear pods (approx. $29)

2 extra Sonnet battery pack covers ($50.00/each)

4 small zip ties ($1.25)

1" heat shrink tubing (&7.40)

1 pair EARBUDi ($9.99)

Exacto knife or scalpel or sharp sissers

Heat source, blow drier or heat gun

Cutting mat

Step 1: Materials

Apple ear pods or other ear pods

2 extra Sonnet battery pack covers ($50.00 each)

4 small zip ties ($1.25 from Craft Outlet)

1" heat shrink tubing

Hair dryer or heat gun

1 pair EARBUDi ($9.99, on Amazon)

Step 2: Cut the EARBUDi

Unwind the EARBUDi. Measure from the clip that will attach to the ear pod so that it is long enough to reach the primary (or front) microphone of the processor and curve down along the length of the processor until it stops a little short of the bottom of the battery pack. For us that was 3" long. Use wire cutters to cut the EARBUDi.

Step 3: Cut the Heat Shrink

Cut a piece of heat shrink to fit over the battery case and only the battery case. For us that was about 1 1/4" tall. The heat shrink we were using is a diameter of 1 5/8". Be sure to also cut out any holes needed for ventilation and cables.

Step 4: Shrink the Heat Shrink

Begin to shrink the heat shrink by itself, using a heat gun or hair dryer. Pass the heat gun or hair dryer slowly over the heat shrink being careful to keep the nozzle few inches away. Once it has gotten to a size a little bit larger than the battery cover, stop.

Step 5: Check the Size

Loosely place the heat shrink over the battery pack cover and EARBUDi stem. Make sure to align the oval hole with the battery vents. Align the cut end of the EARBUDi a bit above the bottom of the battery pack cover and test to be sure it is the right size by bending the EARBUDi around so that the earbud speaker is directly over the cochlear implant microphone.

Step 6: Shrinking the Heat Shrink Onto the Case

Use a heat gun to shrink the heat shrink over the batter pack cover and EARBUDi stem. Make sure to keep the gun in movement and not target the same area too long because you risk burning the plastic.

Step 7: Attach the Zip Ties

Wrap small zip ties (no wider than 1/8") around the battery pack cover, over the heat shrink and cinch tight. Place one each at the top and bottom of the heat shrink on the battery pack cover, with the junction of the zip tie off the back of the cover so that it will not irritate the skin. The heat shrink will provide enough surface texture to help hold the zip ties snuggly, but be sure to tighten them as much as possible. They should not move at all.

Step 8: Trim the Zip Ties

Trim the excess zip tie. File off rough edges of the cut end of the zip tie.

Step 9: Adjust the Earbud

Put the battery cover back on the processor and adjust earbud so it is directly above the primary (front) microphone and as close as possible.

Step 10: Make the Next One

Repeat!

Step 11: Walk Off Into the Sunset

Listen on, rock on, CiPod on!

Share

    Recommendations

    • Fix It! Contest

      Fix It! Contest
    • Tiny Home Contest

      Tiny Home Contest
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest

    7 Discussions

    0
    None
    Matlek

    5 months ago

    Great way to use earbuds with cochlear implants. I actually never realized that is was not possible to use earbuds with these implants... Are these CiPods for you?

    2 replies

    Hey Matlek, there were several designers on the team, including the person who now uses the Ci-Pods. We also made one for wireless AipPods that I'll post later today. It is possible to have sound input directly into a CI. However it means that the wearer can't hear any background noise, which is dangerous in most situations where people want to use earbuds.

    It's is possible, it's just awkward without something like this, as you're hooking wires around your ear and processor. And even then, the bud may not stay optimally positioned wrt the microphone.

    Of course, newer processor models allow us to stream wirelessly from our phone/iPod/laptop either directly or via a wireless accessory to our processors.

    No.

    Bone conduction requires a functioning cochlea, which cochlear implant uses do not have. Instead, electrodes inserted into the cochlea stimulate the auditory nerve directly with electrical impulses controlled by the external processor.