HH/Beck: Hi Holly, thanks for your time today.
Segel: Hi Doug. Nice to be with you.
HH/Beck: Holly, would you please start by telling me a little about your professional background?
Segel: Certainly. I am a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) and Ive worked in a variety of settings, including a private SLP practice in Colorado. For the last three years Ive been with Advanced Bionics in California. I got my masters in May of 1982 from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.
HH/Beck: Holly, what is your position and title at Advanced Bionics?
Segel: I am the Manager of the Bionic Ear Association Mentor Program.
HH/Beck: How long has the Bionic Ear Association (BEA) been around?
Segel: Its been in existence for about a year now.
HH/Beck: Can you please give me a brief overview of the BEA?
Segel: The BEA is a combination of several programs which previously existed as separate entities. Most of the participants in the early groups were, and to this day still are, volunteers. One of the programs was the CARE program which was essentially a series of meetings we held to educate hearing health care professionals and cochlear implant candidates about cochlear implants. Then we had another group called User Support Services which supported people through the process of getting an implant. In conjunction with the CARE program we had an Advocate Group which was also a cochlear implant patient group that would volunteer to lecture and present their stories to different audiences. Again, the primary goal was simply education and dispelling myths about cochlear implants for implant candidates. Another group was called the Clarion Circle which was also a group of patients (or parents), and they too shared their stories and experiences, but this group was a little different because their primary function was to work with candidates online through email communication.
Later, we added the function of sharing personal experiences and advice with new users in order to maximize their success with their implant. So basically, we took all of these similar but separate groups, and combined them into the Bionic Ear Association. So we now have a larger pool of talented people to work with, and its a little easier to coordinate and manage the one group, rather than the four groups!
HH/Beck: Is the BEA open to all cochlear implant patients and candidates, or is it exclusively for the Advanced Bionics and Clarion users?
Segel: The BEA is open to all cochlear implant candidates and users. Advanced Bionics is kind enough to fund it and house it, but its open to all cochlear implant patients and cochlear implant candidates.
HH/Beck: How many members are in the BEA?
Segel: We have about 250 members at this time. We break the membership into two categories, associate members who are cochlear implant candidates, and active members who are cochlear implant users. The membership shares a newsletter, and we also have mentorship programs and other activities and educational exchange programs.
HH/Beck: Now I want to be clear on this next point without being rude! So, let me try
to phrase this appropriately. My understanding is that the BEA is really intended for cochlear implant users and candidates exclusively. In other words, its really not supposed to be open to the general public, or even the professional community, is that correct?
Segel: Yes, you said it very well. Every now and then people have gotten into the conversation online, and theyre really not supposed to be in there because they may have a political or a commercial agenda, or because they are not a cochlear implant patient or a cochlear implant candidate. We do welcome friends or family members of candidates or users who have questions or information to share. Professional members join the BEA-P, or professional branch.
HH/Beck: Which makes this an interesting interview in that were primarily talking about a product that Ive never seen! Then again, I respect the privacy of the BEA, and our goal here is to just help notify the professionals, and cochlear implant candidates and patients that the BEA exists, and that it can be accessed by contacting you at the BEA, through your office at Advanced Bionics.
Segel: Yes, thatll be fine. If they send me an email I can send them a form to fill in and instructions and a temporary password to get into the new secure website.
In fact, I guess this is a good time to announce that were working with Audiology Online (www.audiologyonline.com) and Healthy Hearing (www.healthyhearing.com) to supply the Bionic ear Association with a secure website and a secure BEA National Chat room. To find out more about this, the readers can send me a note and Ill get back to them ASAP. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
HH/Beck: What about people and candidates who are considering obtaining a cochlear implant? Do you have Bionic Ear Association members who will confidentially discuss whatever the issues may be, such as candidacy, counseling, expectations, costs, hardware and related issues?
Segel: Yes, we do. In addition to the BEA members, we also have employees here who have cochlear implants, and we have some people here with a spouse or a child who have a cochlear implant, and all of these people are very happy to help out with questions and concerns relating to their experiences with cochlear implants.
HH/Beck: What about if a patient or a family member wants to discuss cochlear implant issues with professionals, or learn about their insurance coverage or surgical issues?
Segel: Yes, we have professionals who can handle the specific questions, and we have insurance experts in-house too.
HH/Beck: Holly, this sounds like a wonderful service. I want to thank you and Advanced Bionics for creating this program and thank you for all the work youve done for the Bionic Ear Association.
Segel: Thank you too, Doug, for letting us announce this information for the professionals on Audiology Online, and for the public and the patients on Healthy Hearing.
HH/Beck: Hi Holly, thanks for your time today.