Getting insurance coverage for new cochlear implant processors

If you’re buying new cochlear implant processors to replace old ones, and need to figure out how to get insurance to pay for it, this post is for you.

I’ll answer four questions: What did the processors cost? (By “processors” I mean the external devices that sit on the ear, not the surgically implanted devices.) How much did insurance cover? How long did the process take? What hoops did I have to jump through?

In my case, I needed new processors because my old Harmony processors were eight years old and declining. The two new Naída processors plus accessories cost $19,210.00 before insurance and $6,036.63 afterward. In other words, I got 68.58% back. Overall, it took almost six months and a number of calls, letters, and forms.

Review of Lydia Denworth’s “I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language”

ICanHear-cvr-3DThe day after Lydia Denworth’s son Alex was born, he failed a routine hearing test given to all newborns. Probably just mucus in the ears, the nurse explained. It turned out not to be. Thanks to a congenital malformation, Alex had too little hearing in both ears to hear language.

This was a crisis not just of the ears but of the brain itself, as Denworth explains in her book. A brain that has not had full exposure to language by age three is unlikely to learn language fluently and naturally, with lifelong consequences for the child.

Unruly Electronics (or, Week Nine on New Processors)

Last February I got new processors. Here’s my latest update on what I’m hearing, and how I’m working through the insurance issues.

Music has been fantastic, and I was listening to it for hours every day throughout March. Recently I’ve been taking a break, though, because it was getting to be a little bit much: whenever I took my processors off I would keep hearing Boléro or Fool on the Hill or any of a half-dozen other pieces of music. I’m sure this happens to normally hearing people too, but for me, when the processor comes off there’s nothing to compete with my auditory cortex, and it gets unruly. So I had to give it a rest.

Update: Week Three with Naída CI Q70 Processors

As I said in my First Look review, the Naída CI Q70 is a powerful but complex system with a long learning curve. Here is what I’ve learned in the past week. 

I’ve been told through Facebook that Advanced Bionics is working on a software patch that will reduce the annoying 6.6-second interval of silence when switching programs. Thanks, Advanced Bionics. I hope the delay is a lot less, like half a second.

First Look: The Naída CI Q70, a new cochlear implant processor.

In this blog entry I’ll be offering my early impressions of a new cochlear implant processor, having used it for two weeks. It is a complex technology and I expect it will take me quite a while longer to master all of it. I plan to update this review as I gain more experience with it. (I have written an update, as of March 10th, 2014. It’s here.)

Summary: The Naída CI Q70 is a new cochlear implant processor built in a collaboration between Advanced Bionics, a maker of cochlear implants, and Phonak, a maker of hearing aids. It offers many valuable new features. The Bluetooth connectivity is a standout, particularly for music. Some of the special-purpose software features are difficult to learn and use.

In which I get two new cochlear implant processors.

Update Feb 6: We got a check for $10,568.41 today from CareFirst, which is actually about $100 more than I expected. So we have now been reimbursed for 55% of the expenses discussed below. Our next step is to appeal for a “network waiver” to have the devices covered as an in-network expense rather than out-of-network, which would cover a good deal of the rest.

Update March 6: I’ve posted a long “first look” review of the processors here.


As my Facebook friends know, I recently ordered two new “Naida” cochlear implant processors.

Why I Walked Away From The Word “Cyborg.”

In my first book, Rebuilt, I used the word “cyborg” 157 times. Rebuilt was about going completely deaf and having a computer (that is, a cochlear implant) installed in my head to make my auditory nerve transmit sound signals to my brain. The book was about what it was like to lose a part of one’s body and have it replaced with silicon circuitry. It came out in 2005, and did well; one reviewer called Rebuilt “the first cyborg memoir.”

What Kind of Religion Is There for Nonbelievers?

Nonbelievers have often denied that any meaning can be found in the universe’s existence. They say there is no reason for the universe, or us: we just happened to show up. In The First Three Minutes the physicist Steven Weinberg wrote, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless” (154). In Wonderful Life, the paleontologist Steven Jay Gould wrote that “we are only an afterthought, a kind of cosmic accident, just one bauble on the Christmas tree of evolution” (44).

But I think nonbelievers can do better. Much, much better, in fact. There is a way for nonbelievers to see transcendent meaning and purpose in the cosmos, and in human life.

Is the Brain Just a Giant Switching Machine?

I’m posting my response to an interesting question posed by Silas Busch, a student at Bard College who attended a lecture I gave at Bard in January 2013. Mr. Busch gave me permission to post our exchange. Both emails are slightly edited for conciseness.

Dear Michael,

How To Play Video Games Peacefully

Now that I’m 48, I’m less interested in adrenaline and macho fantasies of power and destruction. My focus has changed. What I now most enjoy about games like Half-Life 2 is that they are spectacularly beautiful and immersive. They are fully rendered, photorealistic worlds in which you can walk around and peer in all directions, enjoying the way water is rendered in flowing brooks and the play of sunlight off of rock and wood. When you turn on a flashlight, shadows move in exactly the way you would expect. The game’s physics are eerily real: there’s one point where you have to pile cinderblocks on a seesaw ramp to get it to tilt up so you can reach a ledge. The ramp teeters back and forth exactly the way a real one would. It is so much fun just to walk around looking at things.