Cochlear Aqua+ Review

Having a blog and being active on Twitter does occasionally pay off, as I had shown interest in Cochlear’s previous waterproofing solution (do not call it a bag) they contacted me asking if we would like to trial their new Aqua+ accessory for the N5 and N6 range of processors.
We jumped at the chance and after supplying details (coil magnet strength and coil cable length) a massive package turned up:

On opening it we got a surprise that there were two kits enclosed (makes sense I suppose as Josef is bilaterally implanted but I thought we would have only got one as a test):

It turns out that the reason it is so large is that you get everything you need for a few weeks:

You can see pictured, the guide (multiple languages, only the first 17 pages in English so not as daunting as it first looks!), The Aqua+ (part number Z463273), Nice carry case, Nucleus Aqua+ Coil (part numbers Z463263 – 6 cm length & Z463270 – 8 cm length), Nucleus Safety Line (part number Z467062), Mic Lock-Stirrup (part number Z368868) and a CP900 series magnet (too many part numbers to list!).
As a side note: this appears to show that the coil cable and coil are compatible between the N5 and N6 processors.
My initial comments on opening the kit are positive:
  • Very nicely packaged (positive impression),
  • In a single kit you get 2x of the Aqua+ sleeve’s and 4x of the Mic Lock- Stirrup’s (extras), 
  • The carry case is very useful for putting all the bits in that you need when going swimming
In the accompanying documentation it says that the sleeve is usable for around 50 sessions so each pack of 2 could do you for up to 100 swims. As a pack of sleeves retails at around £34 (direct from Cochlear) I think this works out very economically. But a note here about the original Aqua Accessory

The single use version launched in 2013 and picture above has now been withdrawn from sale and replaced with the new reusable Aqua Accessory; Connevans these new ones on sale at C£39 at the moment for a box of five, each of which can be used up to 20 times.
This brings me to the first difference between the Aqua+ and the Aqua Accessory. With the previous version (non-reusable) we had no issues other than the air in the bag would cause the bag to float away if Josef tried to put his head underwater. As the bag was also bulkier and made the processor less movable around the cable it was harder for Josef to put back on himself so what would usually happen was after he had dived under water a few times the “ears” would be off, passed to us parents and he would happily play without sound.
With the Aqua+ we have the opposite problem. Josef jumps underwater and or moves quickly with his head under the water and the force of the water against the processor causes it to detach from his head, it then sinks (no air in the sleeve). The first time this happened Josef was a bit worried (he was used to looking for the floating ear, the second time it turned into a game, let the ear sink to the bottom and then try to swim down to it!
Thankfully Cochlear have supplied two bits of kit in the pack that can help with this. The first being the Mic Lock-Stirrup:
This helps to keep the processor attached to the ear – as yet we have not had chance to use it with Josef as he complains that it squashes his ear, it’s very difficult to disagree as that is what its intended to do! I think with an older child you should be able to reason with them to say this will help to keep it on your head but not yet for Josef!
The second part included by Cochlear is the Safety Line – this is for making sure that when the processor does come off that it stays attached to clothing. For that reason you need to be wearing something on the top half of your body to attach the line too. Females will be fine with swimming costumes/bikinis tops to clip to in a swimming pool but males will struggle to find somewhere near the neck line to clip it onto - maybe a fashion necklace?
I can see that the main reason for the safety line is for when using the Aqua+ in the sea or open water when you would probably be wearing a wetsuit/top of some kind and in that scenario it will certainly save you expensive processor from sinking from sight! My only complaint is that the line is probably 2cm too short for an adult and wearing it and turning your head may pull the processor off unintentionally.
There is one bit of preparation that you will need to do prior to using the Aqua+ for the first time and that is to make sure you have some spare earhooks to take with you. This is because you need to remove the earhook from the processor to insert it into the sleeve. In my experience the ear hooks get brittle over time so ensure that you take some spares with you in case removing them causes them to break. The manual again shows you what to do here:
(Another note on the earhooks – if you have the small tamper resistant ones make sure you take the tool to remove them!)
Now a couple of photos of Josef in the swimming pool actually using the Aqua+ (note, this is right at the beginning of the swimming session and he has not put his head under that water at this point. I’m taking photos at the side and getting nagged by both boys to get in and play, hopefully next time I’ll be able to get some better photos of them in-use!) 
Finally – is it worth it?
I would say whole heartedly: Yes. The sleeves are very thin and do not make the processor look any bulkier on the ear. It actually works and pricing is, IMHO, fair: Cochlear sell you the initial pack for either £160+VAT (mono) or £289+VAT (bilateral). This gets you the two sets as shown above. I do think that Cochlear could make a better bilateral kit which only has one of the carry cases and instruction manuals and maybe drop the bilateral price by £20 but understand carrying more product lines increases their costs. That being said each set is made up from the component parts (as you pick the magnet and coil cable length) so this would be an easy change to make.

If you would like to find out more please visit the Cochlear website or call (0800 035 6317) or email them.

I'm happy to take questions in the comments or via Twitter.

Thanks to Cochlear for allowing us to trial their new kit.

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