VALENCIA, Calif., May 15, 2009 - In the first such online community of its kind, Advanced Bionics®, the only U.S.-based manufacturer of cochlear implants (or "bionic ears"), is connecting cochlear recipients and candidates from across the country through its new "Connect to Mentor" Web site. The new site, part of the BEATM (Bionic Ear Association) Mentor Program, allows cochlear implant candidates to contact volunteer "mentors" and communicate directly with hearing professionals.
"Advanced Bionics has an actively engaged population of 6,000 BEA members," said CEO Jeffrey Greiner of Advanced Bionics. "In developing this Web site, the company realized that its most valuable assets are cochlear implant recipients themselves. This site allows them to share their experiences, offer advice to others who might be thinking of being implanted, and help them navigate the process from surgery to entering the hearing world."
Candidates can use the site to search for mentors who include parents of implanted children, relatives of cochlear recipients and adult recipients. Each mentor has a profile complete with a personal photo and facts such as favorite sound, interests (i.e., cell phone user, traveler, musician), hometown, age they were implanted, severity of hearing loss and how they can help cochlear implant candidates. Then, candidates can choose to "start a conversation" with the mentor directly from their profile.
"These mentors are valuable guides, motivated by a strong sense of empathy for what cochlear candidates are going through, the struggles of living with severe hearing loss and the enormity of the decision whether or not to have cochlear surgery," Greiner said, adding that all of the volunteer mentors are trained by experienced clinicians who oversee the program. "Connect to Mentor is a natural outgrowth of a population that has long used the Web as a way to communicate - from blogs to forums, and now this."
Mentor Evelyn G. lost her hearing as a young adult due to Meniere's disease. For 18 years, she relied on the use of hearing aids and lip reading for daily communication.
"I want to give those struggling to hear hope and let them know a normal life is possible with a CI [cochlear implant]," Evelyn writes on her profile. "I got my two CI's and I am not shy anymore. I love being with people and each day is pure joy."
Cochlear implants are surgically implanted electronic devices for people with severe-to-profound hearing loss. Unlike hearing aids, they don't amplify sound, but work by directly stimulating any functioning auditory nerves inside the cochlea through an electric impulse.
Advanced Bionics manufactures the Harmony® HiResolution® Bionic Ear System, which offers the most advanced listening experience of any cochlear implant available. It's the only cochlear implant with the 120 spectral bands necessary for deaf recipients to go beyond deciphering simple speech to hearing - and enjoying - music.
About Advanced Bionics
Founded in 1993 by Al Mann, Advanced Bionics is an innovative manufacturer of auditory technologies. Headquartered in Valencia, Calif., Advanced Bionics is the only American manufacturer of cochlear implants - the only technology approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to functionally restore a human sense.